Red states lead the switch to renewables

Source: By John Siciliano and Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner • Posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2019

State energy regulators in Republican strongholds are forcing utilities to look at the improved economics of solar and wind, facilitating the switch to an electric grid that is reliant on mostly renewable energy.

“If you look at wind development, it is the middle of the country, the midwestern, solidly red states, that have made most of the investment in wind energy, and to me that is completely a non-political issue,” said Devashree Saha, a senior associate with the World Resources Institute, a nonpartisan environmental think tank based in Washington, in an interview with John.

Saha published an analysis on Monday detailing signs of the nation’s clean energy future panning out, even without a federal climate policy in place or a Green New Deal.

For her, it is purely a matter of economics, and what makes the most sense given the costs state energy commissions must weigh in approving the construction of new power plants.

The red states of Iowa and Texas lead the nation as the largest generators of electricity from wind.

Right now, however, natural gas power plants are dominating, and that will likely continue because of the low cost of shale gas compared to many other resources. Natural gas is also lower in carbon emissions and other pollutants than coal power plants, which makes it even more important for states looking to cut their emissions through 2050.

Nevertheless, in places like the coal-heavy state of Indiana, state commissions are beginning to second guess the natural gas boom, and are making the decision to transition to more renewables, the analysis showed.

In April, state regulators rejected a utility company’s proposal to build a $780 million natural gas power plant, stating that the dramatic cost reduction in renewable energy could make a large gas-fired plant a stranded asset.

Coal was officially dethroned as the nation’s top power provider in 2016 when natural gas took its place as the dominant fuel for electricity production. “But that may be about to change,” Saha wrote.

“Natural gas faces intensifying pressure from wind and solar power combined with storage technologies,” she explained. Both solar and wind will outpace natural gas development over the next two years, with solar and wind growing at 17% and 14%, respectively.

Other states are following in Indiana’s path, with Arizona placing a moratorium on new natural gas plants in order to take into consideration the cost reductions coming from solar and wind energy. State energy regulators in Colorado, Virginia, California, and others have taken similar steps to promote energy storage devices like big batteries combined with solar and other low-cost renewable energy.

Even President Trump said on Monday that he supports solar energy, during a speech meant to demonstrate his support for environmental progress.

“I’m a believer in solar energy,” Trump said from the East Room of the White House. “It hasn’t fully developed. It’s got a long way to go, but it’s really got a tremendous future.”

Nevertheless, Trump continued his stance that the previous administration’s climate and environmental regulations were “misguided,” and his administration is justified in revising them to the benefit of the U.S. economy.

“The United States does not have to sacrifice our own jobs to lead the world on the environment,” the president added.