This year could prove to be a “watershed year” for renewables and decarbonising the energy sector in the US, according to research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The study suggests that coal-fired capacity will fall while renewable and natural gas will make gains.
The shift is expected to result in CO2 emissions from the power sector falling to their lowest level since 1994. The report comes as US submitted its climate change pledge, ahead of a global climate summit later this year, setting a target of achieving 26-28% emissions by 2025.
William Nelson, head of North American Analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, explained that while decarbonisation in the US would continue post-2015 it would be at a slower pace,
“We many never again see 23 gigawatt of coal capacity retire in a single year; and renewable build could drop significantly in 2017, when important federal tax incentives step down or expire,” he said.
The white paper argues that three factors will make 2015 “one for the record books”, including the US installing more renewables than ever before. Forecasts suggest that 18 new gigawatts will come online this year from clean energy sources, with California and Texas contributing significantly in solar and wind respectively.
A combination of lower priced natural gas, new standards on mercury emissions and the old age of many coal-fired units means that 7% of all current US coal capacity, or 23 gigawatts, will come offline this year. Finally the US is expected to burn more natural gas in 2015 as falling prices have allowed it to undercut coal.
Nelson added, “More interesting than the single-drop in emissions are the ‘structural’ impacts that will live on for decades. Emissions can rise of fall year-to-year based on weather anomalies and volatile fuel prices – but in 2015 we’ll take a giant, permanent step towards decarbonising our entire fleet of power plants.”
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