Don’t mess with Texas. Although the White House is leading a campaign to burn more coal, states and utilities are largely ignoring the call. In April, West Virginia rebuffed efforts by Democratic governor Jim Justice to revive its moribund coal industry. On Oct. 13, Texas announced it, too, was turning to renewables.
The retirement of three coal-powered plants owned by Texas utility Luminant early next year means wind capacity in Texas will surge ahead of coal by the end of 2018. The Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin reports that the lost coal power capacity will be more than replaced by about 4,000 MW of wind power coming online.
Although the exact mix of renewables on the Texas electrical grid depends on how much wind and sun are available, UT researcher Joshua Rhodes expects renewable energy generation could overtake coal “in the near future.“
Texan’s embrace of wind is driven by economics: Older coal plants are no longer as profitable as wind, solar, and cheap natural gas push down the price of wholesale electricity.
So far, 12 coal-fired power plants have been shuttered since Donald Trump took office (including those in Texas) with promises to reinvigorate the coal industry. Despite a small bump in coal jobs in recent months due to temporary demand from China’s steel sector, reports Politico, coal mining employment is a downward trajectory, falling 70% over the last three decades.
The effort to keep the coal industry on life-support continues. The Trump Administration says it will kill the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and subsidize coal and nuclear plants for baseload generation, a move that past and current federal officials say will “blow up the market” for power serving two-thirds of the US population, reports UtilityDive.