“How Renewable Energy Is Taking Over the Electric Grid” – The Motley Fool, 6 September 2014

Renewable energy might very well beat out coal, nuclear, and natural gas as our number one source of energy. This July, every new power generating plant that opened in the US sources renewable energy.

Renewable energy is seeing an upsurge because it’s the cheapest energy alternative. Natural gas is beating wind and solar power by only a small margin in this year’s installed capacity (MW). If residential and commercial rooftops using solar power — called distributed solar energy — were added to the equation, then the number of solar units installed would be equal to natural gas in 2014.

US Energy Information Administration

US Energy Information Administration

While the previous table tells us the source of electricity generation, we should note that wind and solar energy only make a small percentage of the energy we actually use in the US.

US Energy Information Administration

US Energy Information Administration

Renewable energy’s climb is slow, but the trend is showing that renewables will soon replace coal and nuclear power. Natural gas remains a favorable source because it is still low in cost and can retain renewables and other energy sources for future use.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) published further data that shows how the US’s electricity prices have grown over the year. While costs rose in New England and the Mid-Atlantic due to increased wholesale prices from electricity generators, costs decreased on the Pacific coast — California, Oregon, Washington — because these states have installed more solar energy in the last year.

Renewables are a superior energy source in comparison to fossil fuels. Not only can wind and solar energy become cheaper, but both also prevent more greenhouse gases from being released into our environment.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

September 8, 2014

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2014. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar

“Coal: The fuel of the future, unfortunately” – The Economist, 19 April 2014

20140419_WBC732_0

The Economist

While natural gas has been waging a war on coal, coal will likely persist as a serious player in the energy market. Coal is inexpensive, plentiful, and easy to mine, ship, and burn. It is a cheap energy source for developing countries, and a great way for these countries to become rich.

Still, the issue remains that coal is not a clean energy source. Mining, transporting, storing and burning coal is a dirty job; underground mining can cause health issues for miners. Transporting coal has negative environmental impacts; opencast mining, a surface mining technique, destroys topsoil and devours water supplies. Coal is the biggest single source of pollution in the world, expending one-third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The US is experiencing a large shift away from coal and towards natural gas. Many big US coal companies, like American Electric Power and Duke Energy, are closing coal-fired plants. Yet, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that coal will still be producing 22% of the US’s energy by 2040. Coal currently produces 26% of the US’s energy. China, the world’s biggest pollutant, is trying to restrict its coal consumption, but developing countries like Africa and India are picking up where China has left off. In Germany, coal is the cheapest it’s ever been. Japan, too, has recently authorized a new energy plan that has solidified coal’s role as the country’s main energy source.

Besides these boons for coal, international coal companies should still be worried for two reasons: one, that governments will place restrictions on coal; and two, the global oversupply of coal, which has pushed prices down and caused some coal companies to lose profits.

Still, coal remains a worthy adversary to oil and gas. Coal mining doesn’t necessitate expensive equipment, like drills, platforms and pipes, and when prices drop, companies can stop manufacturing and wait until prices pick back up.

Technological advances for producing clean coal—pulverizing coal, separating the gas from coal, scrubbing emissions and capturing carbon dioxide—look promising, though the methods are costly. A $5.2 billion clean-coal plant is being built in Mississippi, which was entirely funded by taxpayers. This will be the most expensive power plant ever completed, so we can probably safely assume that clean-coal plants won’t be the norm any time soon.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

April 20, 2014

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar

“Coal Scrubbers Give Illinois Basin New Life” – Wall Street Journal, 9 January 2014

Natural gas has been dominating the news, and many feel that the influx of the major energy source has inadvertently waged a war on coal. US coal production dropped 7% in 2012, but now coal is making a resurgence, mainly due to the Illinois Basin, which extends from Illinois to Missouri, Indiana and Western Kentucky.

The Illinois Basin was a key US coal basin, until the Clean Air Act of 1970 passed, making the Illinois Basin unfavorable for mining. Illinois coal has elevated levels of sulfur, which is partially responsible for acid rain. However, widespread use of scrubbing technology has allowed for mines in Illinois to reopen—scrubbing technology can lift 97% of a coal-fired power plants’ sulfur dioxide. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted that Illinois would generate 56 million tons of coal in 2013, a 70% increase from 2010. The Illinois Basin is anticipated to produce more coal than Central Appalachia, another major US coal basin.

While natural gas has been a huge boost to our economy and is the cleaner energy source, the coal industry provides the US with many jobs. There will be more jobs available as the basin reopens near railroads and along the Mississippi River.

As the US inches towards a more desired energy independence and security, we must continue to pursue a prudent “all of the above ” energy strategy.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

March 21, 2014

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar

“US Carbon Emissions Keep Falling” – Politico, 22 October 2013

According to the Energy Information Administration, the US’s 2012 carbon dioxide emissions were the lowest since 1994, falling by 3.8%. Last year, Americans managed to drive less, cars became more fuel efficient, and power plants opted for natural gas over coal.

However, Obama’s new sweeping climate policies, which aim to curb US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on US power plants and increase fuel efficiency, can’t take the credit for our improvements on carbon emissions: unaware of the benefits of natural gas, the US oil industry has pursued fracking and its technologies with zeal, which has helped to reduce emissions.

With his climate policies, Obama hopes to successfully decrease GHG emissions by 17% by 2020, from 2005 levels. As noted earlier this month by the UN Climate Panel, the effects of climate change will soon become permanent if nothing is done to reduce global emissions. Since 2005, carbon dioxide emissions have dropped by 12%.

This goes to prove the point — established many times in numerous cultures and over many millennia — that significant societal changes occur with multiple co-current approaches: technological advances, legislation, voluntary and public will with heavy doses of time, patience and plain good luck.

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

October 28, 2013

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

Social Share Toolbar