Renewable energy and fossil fuels are always a highly politicized topic. Climate activists and deniers try to take single talking points and run to the far extremes of logical and fruitful discussions. Yesterday, the US EIA (Energy Information Administration) announced that for the first time in 2022 renewables surpassed coal for electricity generation. With all the hot-topic headlines surrounding renewables and fossil fuels, let’s discuss the current state of fossil fuels and renewables.
Monday, the EIA announced that renewable electricity generation surpassed coal in the US in 2022. Wind and solar were the linchpins for renewables and out produced nuclear. However, the main factor was coal’s declining footprint.
The emergence of natural gas is continuing to phase coal out. Coal fell from 20% to 17%, while natural gas increased from 37% to 39%. “When you look at the data, natural gas has been a major driver for lowering greenhouse gas emissions from electricity because it’s been largely replacing coal-fired power plants,” said Melissa Lott, director of research for the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.
While this news at face value is encouraging, it is also very misleading as climate activists tout the advancements and investments in renewables. , Even President Biden admits fossil fuels are a necessity to 2050 and beyond. He has called for more fossil fuel investments from all the oil majors, and for good reason.
Globally, the renewables transition is vastly off pace. The Paris Climate Accord’s ambitious goals are proving to be unobtainable and unsustainable. Outside reliability issues there are many other factors hindering the renewables transition. Transmission and storage are colossal hurdles that must be cleared to continue transition plans.
Renewables are intermittent while demand is constant. Investment is still heavily favored in the fossil fuel industry. Fossil Fuel investments are predicted to be $1T through 2030, while renewables would need to quadruple in the same time from $1.3T to $5T annually just to maintain the goals of the Paris Climate Accord and keep pace with fossil fuels.
Furthermore, the major contributors to renewables come from the US, China, and the EU while the rest of the globe remains well off pace according to IRENA (International Renewably Energy Agency.) According to IRENA, renewable energy deployment must grow from around 3,000 gigawatts annually today to over 10,000 GW in 2030.
Obviously this is a hot topic that more often than not ends up in the extremes of conversation and not in realism. Common sense and logic are not often found at the table of conversation surrounding renewables expansion and fossil fuel elimination. There are several hurdles for both to clear, but co-existing is a certainty we can all depend on for several decades to come.