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BNEF: Coal’s Biggest Enemy? Capitalism

Bloomberg New Energy Finance, BNEF published an article on Sunday which highlighted the drastic evolution of the global power mix from fossil fuels to renewable energy — that we are already seeing, and what the next 30 years are forecasted to bring.

The article poignantly points out that in 2010, the CEO of Peabody coal, at the time the largest coal company in the world, ridiculed the idea that renewables could ever replace baseload coal power on a large scale. Less than a decade later, during the month of April 2019, renewables supplied more power to the grid than coal, for the first time ever.

Some key points from BNEF’s research:

  1. In the US, solar employs by far the most people compared to every other power sector.
  2. We reached an inflection point in the last five years (since 2014). In a sample of 37 major economies, wind and solar have gone from being the cheapest source of power in only three of those countries, to being the cheapest in 23 of them.
  3. Every major developed economy already shows coal as declining both in absolute production as well as in a share of total national production.
  4. Every global economy except for the US will see renewables reach 50% of total production before 2050 according to BNEF forecasts.

BNEF concludes the article by describing a utility sector undergoing profound change:

“Coal plants are dying off, and the U.S. government keeps cutting its own demand forecasts for the fuel. Nuclear reactors are retiring early. Natural gas plants in development now are at risk of becoming stranded assets before they’re even paid off. A debate is raging around the world over whether to let these generators go or keep some around in the name of grid “resilience”—a term U.S. President Donald Trump has taken up to make the case for both coal and nuclear subsidies.”

 

“What’s clear now is that the nation’s renewable energy capacity has surpassed that of coal. Peabody, meanwhile, went on to declare bankruptcy in 2016, along with most every other major coal producer in America.”

The future for renewables is sunny – but coal power has more dark days ahead.

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