The U.S. electric power system is gradually shifting toward cleaner forms of generation. One sign of this transition is the declining use of coal for electric power production. This fact sheet examines the reasons for this transition and potential results.
WRI established its U.S. office in 1982. We work to improve water quality, increase awareness of local climate change impacts, and identify cost-effective emissions-reduction opportunities in the United States. Learn more about our Eutrophication and Hypoxia, Water Quality Trading, U.S. Local Climate Impacts Initiative, and U.S. Climate Action projects.
This piece originally appeared in the National Journal Energy and Environment Experts Blog.
The U.S. electric power system is gradually shifting toward cleaner forms of generation. One sign of this transition is the declining use of coal for electric power production. In 2011, coal dropped to its lowest level of power generation in more than a decade, according to the U.S. government’s independent Energy Information Administration (EIA). In fact, the EIA recently reported that coal’s share of U.S. electric power generation fell below 40% for the last two months of 2011, the lowest level since 1978.
To understand the cause of this decline, it is important to examine the underlying market forces. Doing so provides important context for recent coal plant retirement announcements, particularly given that some companies have attributed retirements to EPA rules that are still years away from going into force. For example, FirstEnergy Corp. announced in late January 2012 that it would retire several of its smaller coal-fired power plants, explaining that the decision was “based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which were recently finalized, and other environmental regulations.” FirstEnergy, however, had previously cited a range of reasons for its decision to reduce operations at many of its smaller coal plants.
For too long, the United States has lacked a clear, national energy policy. Today, Senator Bingaman took a step in that direction by introducing the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2012 (CESA), which would create certainty for clean energy investments, diversify the U.S. power mix, and yield meaningful carbon emissions reductions.
This issue brief describes analyses by the World Resources
Institute (WRI) in support of emerging payments for watershed
services (PWS) programs in two major watersheds in Maine and
North Carolina and insights gleaned from work in progress. The
three pilot initiatives...
Energy Use and Efficiency Policies
This paper presents detailed manufacturing energy-use and economic-activity data along with state-by-state policy summaries for the 10 member states of the Midwestern Governors Association. To help inform ongoing policy discussions across the region, this paper offers a snapshot of industrial...
Yingzhen Zhao is a Research Analyst for the Sustainable Finance Program. Her work focuses on emerging actors in development finance, in particular on identifying and pursuing opportunities to...
This issue brief reports on the mechanics of and lessons learned from a conservation incentive program focused on the gopher tortoise. Its aim is to inform the successful design and implementation of other candidate programs emerging throughout the southern forests and greater United States.