Bloomberg New Energy Finance is predicting a “transformative year” for the U.S. electric power industry in 2015, with emissions hitting a 20-year low due to increased natural gas and renewable energy generation and a reduction in the number of operating coal plants.
Bloomberg predicts that 18 gigawatts of new solar and wind capacity will come online, while 23 GW of coal capacity will be retired.
“This should prove to be a watershed year for the ‘decarbonization’ of the US power sector, with record volumes of coal-fired capacity to be shuttered, renewables capacity to be built, and natural gas to be consumed,” according to a BNEF release.
“More interesting than the single-year drop in emissions are the ‘structural’ impacts that will live on for decades,” says William Nelson, BNEF’s head of North American analysis. “Emissions can rise or fall year-to-year based on weather anomalies and volatile fuel prices. But in 2015, we’ll take a giant, permanent step towards decarbonizing our entire fleet of power plants.”
Think Progress said 7% of U.S. coal capacity will likely be shut down this year. “Low gas prices and new EPA standards limiting the amount of mercury, acid gases, and toxic metals that can be emitted from coal plants encourage utilities to take old coal plants offline, rather than spend money trying to retrofit them,” Geiling writes. “As coal plants close, more utilities will switch to burning natural gas, a less-carbon intensive (though still not completely green) power source.”