Complete dependence on renewable energy has been one of the largest projects pushed by environmental activists. Moving away from conventional sources of energy, such as coal and oil, has been considered the next milestone for the global energy industry. Within the United States, despite constant support for the use of fossil fuels, renewable energy is regularly increasing in capacity and prominence.
Improvement of Conditions in Recent Years
According to the New York Times, the economic benefits of renewable energy have topped coal plants since last checked in 2010. The article stated that: “It is a milestone that seemed all but unthinkable a decade ago, when coal was so dominant that it provided nearly half the nation’s electricity.”
Hundreds of coal plants have been retired since 2010 in favor of renewable energy, and these days, even the ones that are still in service are being run less and less. The exact numbers show that the cost of building wind power plants is less than 60 percent of what it used to be in 2010. Meanwhile, the cost of solar power has dropped by more than 80 percent. After all, electric utilities are businesses, and this means that they are also looking for the greatest margin of profit. Consequently, this decrease in costs has made multiple forms of renewable energy an appealing alternative for many.
COVID-19 Contributes to the Cause
Believe it or not, COVID-19’s contribution to environmental well-being has not just been the flourishing of wildlife in the modern suburban jungle. The consequent shutdown of stores, restaurants, and various other services has resulted in a sharp decline in electricity demand. Utilities that noticed this change started to shut down their plants after realizing that they would produce excess energy. Of course, the first plants that were shut down were the coal plants.
The Future of Energy in the United States
Coal plants are more expensive to run and maintain when compared to all other energy sources, including natural gas, nuclear energy and renewables. This can only mean one thing: the end of coal power plants.
The latest report from the Energy Information Administration supports this prediction, estimating that coal consumption will fall by a quarter in 2020. In this same report, experts are expecting that only 19 percent of the country’s energy will be produced by coal, which would put it below both nuclear and renewable energy sources for the first time in history. Unfortunately, natural gas, which supplies 38 percent of the United States’ power, will maintain its position as the largest producer thanks to the current state of the market. Thankfully, though, natural gas has a much lower footprint compared to coal.
It is also possible that COVID-19 truly has nothing to do with this trend. However, one thing is clear: there is currently an increasingly powerful wave of environmentalism covering the world, and people can only hope that it will help to permanently redirect the economy towards a more eco-friendly future.