DOE To Fund New Coal-Fired Generation Research

The Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy is funding research and development into small, modular coal-fired power plants in 2019 in an effort to revive the coal-fired power generation sector and diversify the power generation industry. The potential for higher natural gas prices in the future and an over-reliance on natural-gas fired electricity generation are causes for concern for grid reliability and national security. The research will focus on developing small coal-fired units capable of flexible operations with little to no emissions to meet the needs of the modern electrical grid and increasing environmental concerns that have troubled the coal industry over the last decade.


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Fourth Major U.S. Coal Company Files for Bankruptcy Amidst Continuing Industry Decline

Westmoreland Coal Co., one of the oldest coal mining companies in the U.S. has filed for bankruptcy. The filing represents the fourth major U.S. coal company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in three years due to continual decline in demand for coal throughout the U.S. as well as overseas.  Despite efforts by government agencies and President Trump’s more favorable outlook towards the coal industry, demand has continued to decline as more coal-fired electricity generating plants retire and as two of the biggest U.S. coal consumers, China and India, import less coal in efforts to reduce air pollution. The latest government forecasts expect coal-fired power plants to continue to retire and coal production, consumption, and exports to continue to decline.


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New Wind and Solar Power Generation Installations Beating Natural Gas Despite Its Low Cost

Per the EIA, in the US in 2016 wind and solar energy generation accounted for nearly 9,000 MW and 8,000 MW, respectively, of capacity additions while natural gas-fired generation added approximately 7,900 MW.  The cost of natural gas-fired generation is still considerably cheaper, averaging $895/kW versus wind and solar with an average installed cost (nominal dollars) of $1,630/kW and $2,434/kW, respectively. However,  demand for renewable energy has surged from businesses seeking to fill their energy needs from clean energy sources rather than fossil fueled generation.  Additionally, the cost of solar and wind power generation keeps declining year over year making it increasingly more viable for utilities to invest, further driving their growth.

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Natural Gas-Fired Electricity Generation Surging This Summer

The EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook released in July has natural gas-fired generation supplying approximately 37% of total electricity in the U.S. this summer, with coal-fired generation falling to approximately 30% of total supply.  Low natural gas prices along with over 5 gigawatts of additional natural gas-fired capacity that has come online this year are the significant drivers in the continual growth of natural gas-fired electricity generation.


Read more and the full EIA report here:

Increasing Renewable Generation Capacity Posing More Challenges for Grid Operators

The significant growth of renewable energy generation has made it a challenge to effectively integrate into markets across the US.  The inherent variability of wind and solar generation has led to wide, and fast swings in wholesale electricity prices due to supply and demand imbalances.  According to a report by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), these imbalances could become much more frequent as renewable generation penetration continues to grow.  Grid operators will need to find adequate ways to respond and neutralize this volatility.


Read more and the full LBNL report here:

Rise of Renewable Energy Generation Expected to Continue

Between declining costs of renewable energy technology and continually increasing stigma associated with fossil fuel electricity generation, the forward outlook for renewable generation is very positive.  Additionally, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Trump at the end of 2017 maintained the tax credits associated with renewable energy generation, furthering the push towards increased renewable capacity in the United States.  According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, renewable energy generation is capable of supplying up to 80% of the nation’s total electricity generation by 2050.

Read more about the growth of renewable electricity generation here: