According to the latest annual report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Seventh Annual Energy Report: Clean Energy Opportunities and Dirty Energy Challenges,” the nation’s electric utilities have emerged as “essential partners” in the nation’s ongoing clean energy transition.
“The U.S. energy sector has entered a new phase in the energy transition,” the report stated. “Solar and wind energy are thriving, and the technologies to help smooth out the highs and lows of renewable energy generation and integrated these clean resources into the electric grid are becoming commercial realities. Wind and solar already outcompete coal power and are likely to put similar economic pressure on natural gas within the next decade and a half.”
Specifically, coal-fired generation has sunk to a four-decade low. “In fact, coal consumption economy-wide in 2018 was 47% lower than the Department of Energy projected it would be a decade ago, while wind and solar power capacity in 2018 was four times higher than DOE anticipated,” the report said.
Furthermore, total coal-related carbon emissions are down 42% from 2005 levels, and at least nine large electric utilities around the nation are now committed to 100% carbon-free power no later than 2050.
The nation’s electric utilities are also investing $8 billion a year in energy-efficiency programs that save more electricity than is produced by eight coal-fired power plants. The NRDC also noted that over the last 40 years, the energy savings achieved due to increased efficiency have exceeded the contributions from all new supply resources.
“In May 2019, utilities serving 42 states and the District of Columbia were among the prominent supporters of efficiency standards for lightbulbs in a proceeding before the U.S. Department of Energy, fighting to protect electricity savings worth an average of $100 per household.”
The report added, “Utilities’ efficiency story is far from over, but it remains a beacon of hope in the battle against destructive climate change and more localized damage from air and water pollution.”