CHAPTER FOURTEENDisrupting the US Energy Supply

In this chapter, we'll look at the future effects cheap battery storage is going to have on the US energy supply. I'll address the implications for utilities, the coal-mining sector, and other forms of power generation.

President Trump may still be digging coal but America's electric utilities don't seem to be. From 2008 to 2017, almost all of the utility-scale power plants that retired were of the fossil fuel variety. Not surprisingly, 47 percent of them were coal plants. By the end of 2017, 17 percent of all US coal-fired generating capacity had completely retired. Utilities converted another 4 percent to natural gas.1 That's what caused coal's drop from 51 percent to 31 percent of all US electrical generation in 2017.2 And more shutdowns are coming. An August 2018 study indicated that half of the remaining coal-fired plants are likely to shut down by 2030 or before. Or they may be converted to natural gas–fired plants. It turns out that 18 percent of the remaining ones already have a target retirement date.3

Solar or wind (plus storage) generation systems are now at or below grid parity in the United States. More than 72.5 gigawatts (GW) of wind and 43.5 GW of solar are coming online over the next several years. And the reason is simple: market economics. Coal simply can't cut it economically. It's that simple. Building a new coal-fired power plant is only economical when compared to a similar-sized nuclear plant. Otherwise, ...

Get The Energy Disruption Triangle now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.