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Energy Blog Solar and Wind Power Drops Below Coal

Solar and Wind Power Drops Below Coal

Chris Hurcombe
by Chris Hurcombe September 24, 2013
China Could Cut 200m Tonnes of Commercial Coal by 2015

Earlier this week figures from a new study revealed that it is now less costly to get electricity from solar panels and wind turbines that from traditional coal-powered power plants for the first time in the US.

Thanks to tax-breaks for ‘green’ power and taxes to help offset climate change the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences’ latest study into the commercial energy market has seen the two most widely-used forms of eco-friendly energy dip under coal for the first time in the North American market.

“Burning coal is a very costly way to make electricity. There are more efficient and sustainable ways to get power,” said Dr. Laurie Johnson, chief economist in the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We can reduce health and climate change costs while reducing the dangerous carbon pollution driving global warming.”

“And yet, there are no federal limits on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants may release,” said Johnson. “That’s wrong. It doesn’t make sense. It’s putting our future at risk. We limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, soot, and other harmful pollution from these plants. It’s time to cut this carbon pollution.”

Thanks to President Obama’s authority in enforcing the Clean Air Act, the government has been able to impose limits on the amount of carbon pollution a power plant may release before incurring charges. This additional cost now leaves the US of being in a surprising position; it is now more cost effective to replace an existing coal-fired power plant with a wind farm than to keep the older plant running, according to the study.

The study also takes into account the SCC – or ‘social cost of carbon’. This concept allows the US to put a monetary value on damage caused to public health by carbon pollution, including incurring days off in the workforce and continuing the negative effects of climate change.

Such changes to have been factored in the last few years include flooding and drought in farmlands, heat waves and wildfires such as the California rim fire that made international news.

The State department in the United States says that extreme weather – which can be traced back to commercial energy production with coal via climate change – caused more than $140 billion in damages in 2012, of which $100 billion was paid for by the taxpayer.

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