Andrew Beebe, World Positive, 31 July, 2017.
Fifteen years ago, when I joined the early ranks of clean energy entrepreneurs, we were nearly dead in the water on climate. Oil was $15 per barrel, Al Gore’s groundbreaking movie An Inconvenient Truth hadn’t come out, and a solar panel was something that powered a calculator.
In the year 2005, I went to my first “Alternative Energy Conference” in Aspen, Colorado. I was asked to speak at the event, and hadn’t paid much attention to the agenda. Upon arrival I found the audience consisted of coal, oil and gas executives.
What a Difference a Decade Makes
In the first quarter of 2017, renewable energy accounted for 20% of all U.S. electricity while fracking has gone mainstream. On the flip side, six publicly traded coal companies declared bankruptcy from April 2015–2016 while coal production had its steepest annual decline since 1958. And after much hype, the number of operational clean coal power plants in the U.S. remains firmly stuck at…zero.
A coal plant built today would not be competitive with a combination of wind and solar in virtually any location in the country. And nowhere would it be competitive with natural gas.