In a sign of things to come, Hawaii has set a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045, up from 18% now – pretty amazing!
This is the trend we have all been waiting for.
In 2015, a record 9.1 gigawatts (GW) of solar and 8.9 GW of wind will be installed in the US, forecasts Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). 13.6 GW of wind are under construction in 100 projects, says American Wind Energy Association.
In Iowa, MidAmerican Energy announced another $1.5 billion investment in wind – 922 megawatts. When the two projects come online next year, wind will account for 57% of the utility’s capacity in the state.
Coal Going Down
It will also be the year that 7% of US coal-fired power plants close – the most decrepit, polluting ones – setting the stage for a big drop in US emissions.
23 GW of coal power will close on top of the 78 GW in recent years. Coal currently supplies about 38% of our electricity, down from 52% in 2011.
Coal can’t compete with natural gas prices and with new mercury emission regulations, its share of the energy mix will be permanently reduced.
With natural gas and renewable energy replacing coal, US energy emissions cold drop to 1994 levels, says BNEF, and back then the US economy was 42% the size.
"More interesting than the single-year drop in emissions are the ‘structural’ impacts that will live on for decades," says William Nelson, Head of BNEF North American Analysis. "Emissions can rise or fall year-to-year based on weather anomalies and volatile fuel prices – but in 2015, we’ll take a giant, permanent step towards de-carbonizing our entire fleet of power plants."
Going forward, de-carbonization will continue, but more slowly, he says, unless renewable energy tax credits are renewed.
Worldwide, more renewable power capacity is being added each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined. By 2030, BNEF predicts, more than four times as much renewable capacity will be added.
It is no longer a question of whether we will transition to cleaner energy, but how long it will take.
US energy emissions have been rising for the past two years because of booming natural gas and oil, however.
Read our article, New Goal: Shut Down Half of US Coal Plants.