The cheap energy revolution is here, and coal won’t cut it

The cheap energy revolution is here, and coal won’t cut it

Wind and solar are about to become unstoppable, natural gas and oil production are approaching their peak, and electric cars and batteries for the grid are waiting to take over. This is the world Donald Trump inherited as U.S. president. And yet his energy plan is to cut regulations to resuscitate the one sector that’s never coming back: coal.

Clean energy installations broke new records worldwide in 2016, and wind and solar are seeing twice as much funding as fossil fuels, according to new data released Tuesday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). That’s largely because prices continue to fall. Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity in the world.

But with Trump’s deregulations plans, what “we’re going to see is the age of plenty—on steroids,” BNEF founder Michael Liebreich said during a presentation in New York. “That’s good news economically, except there’s one fly in the ointment, and that’s climate.”

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, UNEP

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, UNEP

 

Government subsidies have helped wind and solar get a foothold in global power markets, but economies of scale are the true driver of falling prices. Unsubsidized wind and solar are beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas in an ever-widening circle of countries.

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

The bad news for coal miners gets even worse. U.S. mining equipment has gotten bigger, badder, and way more efficient. Perhaps the biggest killer of coal jobs is improved mining equipment. The state of California now employs more people in the solar industry than the entire country employs for coal.

Posti di lavoro e produttività nell’industria del carbone americana. Fonte: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, US Department of Labor

Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance, US Department of Labor

Source: Bloomberg

Date: May 2017

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