Renewable energy may soon be cheaper than fossil fuels.

Clean energy is catching up to natural gas. 

 In some areas wind and electric energy is already cheaper than oil or even natural gas.

The natural gas “bridge” to sustainability may be shorter than expected.

David Roberts at Vox news has long been one of my favorite energy and environmental writers.  In an article by Roberts in August of 2018 he says that  wind and solar power in very limited  circumstances is already less expensive than carbon based energy.  There are a lot of ifs, ands and buts in his article, but clean energy is now actually competitive with fossil fuel in some instances  By 2035 it looks as if it will be cheaper to replace existing natural gas plants with “controllable, storable renewable energy.”  And coal powered plants have been the most expensive way to generate electricity for several years now.  When the day comes that wind and solar will generate and store electric power at a lower cost for plant owners, that will the last day that fossil fuels will be used.

At least that’s the theory.  Actuality may be a bit more complicated as a recent article about why it is so hard to get rid of coal  says.  

“In certain limited circumstances, solar+storage or wind+storage is already cheaper than new natural gas plants and able to play all the same roles (and more).”

“Recent forecasts suggest that it may be cheaper to build new renewables+storage than to continue operating existing natural gas plants by 2035.”

“For around 10 years, the conventional wisdom in the energy sector has been that natural gas is ascendant. Coal is dirty, and it’s getting expensive, but it’s too early to jump all the way to renewable energy. To get from the fossil fuel present to the renewable future, we will need a bridge.”

“Natural gas is meant to be that bridge, a way to reduce our emissions relative to coal while we work on scaling up renewables.”

“Or so the story goes.”

“Around 2015, though, just five years into gas’s rise to power, complications for this narrative began to appear. First, wind and solar costs fell so far, so fast that they are now undercutting the cost of new gas in a growing number of regions. And then batteries also started getting cheap faster than anyone expected. It happened so fast that, in certain limited circumstances, solar+storage or wind+storage is already cheaper than new natural gas plants and able to play all the same roles (and more).”

“The cost of natural gas power is tethered to the commodity price of natural gas, which is inherently volatile. The price of controllable, storable renewable energy is tethered only to technology costs, which are going down, down, down. Recent forecasts suggest that it may be cheaper to build new renewables+storage than to continue operating existing natural gas plants by 2035.”

Image at the top of this page is Winter in Colorado.
Aspens and the Colorado Rockies.

Original article By David Roberts@drvoxdavid@vox.com.  Updated Oct 26, 2018.

Clean energy is catching up to natural gas

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