This nifty map shows why coal power is struggling, Trump notwithstanding

first_img Nuclear More from News Massive Australian blazes will ‘reframe our understanding of bushfire’ Twitter Warren Cornwall is freelance journalist in Washington State. (Graphic) J. You/Science; (Data) Joshua Rhodes, Energy Institute, The University of Texas in Austin doi:10.1126/science.aal0523 Solar Wind Current With Clean Power Plan Clean Power Plan and cost of pollution impacts The mammoth analysis suggests that “it might be that decarbonization [of the U.S. electrical grid] is able to be met even without the Clean Power Plan,” says Michael Webber, an engineer and deputy director of UT’s Energy Institute, which conducted the research. “The big thing is if gas stays low [in price] then coal has a tough time.”The work is part of a broader initiative at the institute, aimed at tallying all the costs that come with keeping the lights on, from environmental impacts to building transmission lines or responding to regulations. Snazzy online calculators and mapping tools that accompany the new model enable users to tweak a number of variables, including gas prices and environmental costs, and see how the nation’s energy future might change, at the level of individual counties.The work has its limitations. The Obama regulations would have the biggest impact on whether existing coal plants are shut down, and that wasn’t included in the model. (An Energy Information Administration study published this past June suggests the plan would shrink coal’s overall share of the electrical grid from 33% in 2015 to 21% in 2030; even without the plan, coal’s share would still shrink to 30%.) Also, although the model breaks things down to the individual county, the electrical grid doesn’t follow county lines, and the maps also don’t take into account which areas use the most electricity.Still, Webber says the visualizations could help utilities, regulators, and advocacy groups communicate with the broader public about the different forces shaping the evolution of the nation’s electrical grid.For example, in the first map above that reflects current conditions, gas tops the list chiefly in the West and Southeast, whereas wind wins out in much of the Midwest, parts of the Appalachians, and the Northeast. Solar enjoys an advantage in 13% of counties, chiefly in the sunny Southeast and Southwest. Coal is the cheapest in 10% of counties, primarily in the Southeast and Appalachian coal country.In contrast, in the middle map with the CPP, coal becomes the cheapest option in just 3% of counties, mostly because the plants might need to install costly carbon capture systems.And nuclear power becomes one of the big winners if you add other environmental and health costs to the CPP (the third map). Nuclear becomes the cheapest alternative in 13% of counties, displacing coal and, perhaps surprisingly, nudging out solar power in parts of the Southeast, Midwest, and Northwest. That’s because it takes a lot of energy to build solar panels, says Joshua Rhodes, a UT engineer involved in developing the model. (The model doesn’t account for the cost of disposing of the nuclear waste, beyond a fee the federal government charges nuclear power plants.) Posted in: ClimateTrump administration Email Warren Natural gas Coal New U.N. climate report offers ‘bleak’ emissions forecast In unpublished paper, former White House climate adviser calls methane ‘irrelevant’ to climate President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to revive the flagging U.S. coal industry, but a new analysis suggests cheap natural gas and falling prices for wind and solar power mean there are few places where it makes sense to build a new coal-fired power plant.To boost coal power, Trump has promised to dismantle the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s climate change initiatives, regulations dubbed the Clean Power Plan (CPP) that would restrict greenhouse gas pollution from electricity plants. Republicans have derided the plan as part of Obama’s “war on coal,” and the U.S. Supreme Court has put a hold on the regulations pending the resolution of a legal challenge. But even without the CPP, coal already can’t compete with other energy sources in most of the country when it comes to building new power plants, suggests a new computer model from researchers at the University of Texas (UT) in Austin.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*) Warren Cornwall Cheapest power source As the first map below shows, even without the CPP, gas and wind (pink and medium blue) are already the cheapest new power sources in nearly 75% of the nation’s 3110 counties.Tack on the CPP (middle map), which would require coal plants to capture some of their carbon emissions, and coal (red) cedes more territory to wind and natural gas.And coal disappears from the map if you add the environmental and public health costs associated with various energy sources (the third map), including a $62 per metric ton price on carbon dioxide emissions. And nuclear power (light blue) expands.last_img

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