July 6, 2020 Read More →

Even after passing coal, utilities reluctant to rely too heavily upon renewables

New York Times ($):

Dominion Energy, one of the nation’s largest utilities, in late June erected wind turbines off the Virginia coast — only the second such installation in the United States — as part of a big bet on renewable energy.

The company is also planning to build new power plants that burn natural gas.

Utilities around the country are promoting their growing use of renewable energy like hydroelectric dams, wind turbines and solar panels, which collectively provided more power than coal-fired power plants for the first time last year. But even as they add more green sources of power, the industry remains deeply dependent on natural gas, a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases and is likely to remain a cornerstone of the electric grid for years or even decades.

Utilities maintain that they need to keep using natural gas because the wind and the sun are too unreliable. They are also reluctant to invest in energy storage, arguing that it would cost too much to buy batteries that can power the grid when there isn’t enough sunlight or wind.

Some experts say they hope that the country can move away from fossil fuels in part because the use of renewables has grown even as the Trump administration has repealed environmental regulations and pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

“Fighting the transition is not going to stop the transition,” Dennis Wamsted, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said. “Economically, it will happen inevitably.”

Utility executives acknowledge that renewable energy will continue to grow. But many dismiss the idea that wind turbines, solar panels and batteries can replace natural gas plants.

[Ivan Penn]

More: The Next Energy Battle: Renewables vs. Natural Gas

Posted in: IEEFA In the News

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