By Wendy Koch
The United States is setting new milestones that suggest a fundamental, and possibly permanent, shift in its energy economy.
Consider what happened last year alone. The amount of electricity from coal-fired power plants hit a record low while that from natural gas generators hit a record high. Also, renewable energy added the most new power to the electric grid, and annual carbon emissions reached a 20-year low.
“2015 clearly marked a turning point for American energy….We’ve entered a new era here in the United States,” says Lisa Jacobson, president of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, which released on Thursday the fourth annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook in partnership with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Colleen Regan, a senior BNEF analyst, expects many of the key changes will likely be “permanent shifts, rather than temporary adjustments.”
Indeed, in recent years, the U.S. oil and natural gas boom has sparked much talk about an American energy renaissance. Yet as prices for oil, wind and solar have plunged, the most recent U.S. short-term forecast doesn’t see production growth for all three. Rather, it sees oil falling for the next two years but solar and wind rising…
…“In the absence of substantial greenhouse gas policies, the U.S. and the global economy are unlikely to stop relying on fossil fuels as the primary source of energy,” write Thomas Covert and Michael Greenstone of the University of Chicago and Christopher R. Knittel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the short- and middle-term, they say solar and wind are unlikely to “play a major role in base-load electricity capacity or in replacing petroleum-fueled internal combustion engines.”
Continue reading at National Geographic…