Coal Collapsing Faster Under Trump; Wind, Solar, Gas All Benefit

More coal plants are now projected to retire more quickly than experts thought a year ago, according to energy-industry analysts who gathered in Chicago Tuesday.
Three alternative energy sources—wind, solar and natural gas—are expected to divide up the spoils, they said at the American Wind Energy Association's Windpower 2018 conference.
“The real story I believe is in coal retirements," said Bruce Hamilton, a director in the energy practice at Navigant, which has modeled every coal plant in the U.S. and projected 73 gigawatts will retire in the next 10 years.
"That’s more than twice what we projected last year at this time. It’s more than we had two years ago when the Clean Power Plan was in the assumptions."
The projection changed in part because of more announced retirements, Hamilton said, "but more importantly, the fundamentals of the economics of coal have gotten worse, with costs going up, while the competition for coal—that is, gas, wind and solar—has all gotten cheaper. So it’s getting to the point where huge swings are forecast. You can see it will be throughout the decade."
Navigant's projection is more conservative than some:
"Our outlook includes about 100 Gigawatts of coal retirements," said Max Cohen, an IHS Markit analyst. "That’s about a third of the fleet."
Cohen believes multiple fuels can benefit simultaneously from the coal retirements as long as they remain competitive with gas.
"Concurrent with the boom in coming years of wind and solar, there’s also a boom in natural-gas generation. And all three of those technologies—wind, solar and gas—are gaining market share at roughly the same speed in the 2020s," he said. "A little bit of that is due to power-demand growth in some regions, such as ERCOT (Texas), but mostly this boom in gas is coming at the expense of coal."
Dan Shreve of MAKE Consulting expects natural gas to grab much of the 80-90 GW of coal he sees retiring in the next 10 years. But, he added, more gas makes more wind possible:
“We do expect to see a substantial amount of natural gas placed onto the grid over the next 10 years. This is not a bad thing. This is a good thing. A lot of it has to do with the fact that combined cycle gas turbines have the flexibility not only to serve as base-load but also to take over during those peak times" when renewables may fall short of demand.

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