Recently, US Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, called for a study to look into whether renewable energy threatens “baseload” power plants (generally coal and nuclear). In the request, Perry expressed concern that current government policies that subsidize the development of renewable energy are leading to the closure of baseload plants. In his memo he wrote, “federal subsidies that boost one form of energy at the expense of others … create acute and chronic problems for maintaining adequate baseload generation,”. Although not implicitly stated, he was referring to solar and wind.
But are solar and wind energy the REAL “coal killers”?
Let’s not jump the gun so fast...
Cheap natural gas may have a larger role in the decrease of coal than some might think or want to admit. A recent report by Analysis Group, an economic consulting firm, stated the following. “Analysis Group finds it is market forces – primarily low-cost natural gas and flat demand for electricity – that are causing some coal and nuclear power plants to retire, and not state and federal policies supporting renewable energy development,”.
But it’s not just liberal think tanks that are making the argument. Ben Fowke, president, and CEO Xcel Energy, told The Wall Street Journal that wind and solar are not responsible for the closure of coal and nuclear plants.
The bottom line is that wind and solar are contributing to the decline of coal, but let’s not leave out the biggest culprit: Cheap natural gas.