ORIGINAL REPORTING: Making the 'cold hard economic case' against coal
New campaign will ask coal users to face the 'cold hard economic case' against them; With 150 GW of U.S. coal still in service, the Rocky Mountain Institute aims to prove the resource is raising electricity costs.
Herman K. Trabish, Oct. 22, 2018 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The economics of coal are getting worse and worse and more and more utilities are moving away from it.
Bruce Nilles, who led the charge against coal that shuttered 275 of the 530 U.S. coal plants as director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign from 2002 to 2018, will now lead a new effort against coal. Nilles was named a Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) Senior Fellow in August and awarded a $2 million grant to lead a new effort based on the economics of coal. "By 2020, coal will be gone from most of the country and concentrated in a handful of states," Nilles told Utility Dive. "The way to make progress in the remaining states is to make the cold hard economic case to regulators and customers that the high cost of coal-generated electricity is not good for business." Nilles' new objectives are to replace coal with lower-cost alternatives, and then get fossil fuels out of other economic sectors, such as transportation and building heating and cooling.
The biggest landmark in the economic case against coal were the bids in an Xcel Energy solicitation at $21/MWh for wind plus storage and $36/MWh for solar-plus-storage, Nilles said. Equally important was a June NV Energy filing for a 300 MW solar project at $23.76/MWh. Major coal-owning utilities, like the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), say they are evaluating the economics of their coal assets. But they say coal will come out of their resource mixes when their own data — which they insist is confidential — shows it is no longer the least-cost option. Without access to that data to prove utilities wrong, Nilles will instead show that coal is driving up electricity rates in coal-reliant states and will call on consumer groups to verify the harm high rates are doing to state economies. Then, he will use strategies described in a September RMI paper to show there are financial approaches that could make closures a win-win-win for consumers, plant owners and the climate… click here for more