The mix of energy sources used to generate electricity across the country has changed significantly in the last decade as coal, while still the largest single source of fuel, has lost its share of the generation market to natural gas and renewables like wind and solar. States’ electricity generation includes such sources as coal, natural gas, nuclear power, hydropower, and renewables. The electricity generation mix varies significantly from region to region and even state to state, depending on available resources and regional market prices.
Energy storage is a game changer. In a recent blog, I noted how the falling costs for batteries, along with the spread of solar power, has the potential to significantly expand the ability of energy storage and distributed energy resources to participate in the nation’s electricity system. GTM Research expects the U.S. energy storage market to grow to roughly 2.6 GW in 2022, almost 12 times the size of the 2016 market. Seventy-one megawatts of energy storage were deployed in the first quarter of 2017, growing 276 percent over Q1 2016.
The consulting firm McKinsey & Company recently released a report noting that energy storage prices are falling faster than anyone expected, with battery costs down to less than $230/kWh in 2016 from almost $1,000/kWh in 2010. The falling costs for batteries, coupled with the spread of solar power, presents a growing threat of disruption for utility business models.
In May 2017, the U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA, released a daily energy brief noting U.S. nuclear capacity and generation is expected to decline as existing generators retire. Five nuclear plants, with a combined capacity of 5,000 megawatts, or MW, have retired in the past four years, primarily due to competition from low-cost natural gas, unfavorable market policies, and/or local opposition. The Three Mile Island generating station in Pennsylvania is the latest nuclear power plant to announce retirement plans. In addition to these recent retirements, six other plants are scheduled to retire in the next nine years.
The transformation of the electric grid in the United States is proceeding at a rapid pace. Several factors, including the proliferation of distributed energy resources, or DERs, utility-scale renewable generation, energy storage, advanced metering infrastructure, and other technologies, are changing the way electric power is now generated, transmitted and distributed.
The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord has galvanized climate action at the state and local level. A group of 12 states have formed a coalition, called the United States Climate Alliance, to meet Paris climate commitments and fill the void left by the U.S. government.
Last week President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, citing the “draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement poses on our country.” The decision to withdraw from the agreement—a major international treaty to address climate change—is going to have broad policy and environmental impact on the global stage.