Clean Energy Continues to Grow, Leaving Dirty Coal Behind

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David Graham-Caso
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Clean Energy Continues to Grow, Leaving Dirty Coal Behind

Recent Successes Include Impressive Wind-Power Growth, Colorado Utility Reaching Renewable Goals Years Ahead of Schedule and Wind Replacing Coal in Indiana and Illinois; Coal Found to be More Expensive, Used Less

LOS ANGELES - Clean energy continues to grow at an impressive pace in America, with wind power expanding by nearly 90 percent in just one year, according to information released in the May edition of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly.  The impressive growth of clean energy was coupled with a shrinking of the coal industry.  Coal-fired power continued its steady decline, with coal use shrinking by almost 10 percent compared to one year ago, and cleaner energy sources grew nationwide as communities across the country call for their power to come from sources that do not make them and their families sick.

“Wind is the fastest growing source of not just clean power, but any power,” said Bruce Nilles, Deputy Conservation Director for the Sierra Club.  “The clean energy future that we kept hearing about is here now, and it is putting Americans to work across the country every single day.”

Colorado Utility Meets Renewable Goal Eight Years Ahead of Schedule

As part of the trend of growing clean energy, last week in Colorado, the state’s largest investor-owned utility, Xcel Energy, announced that it would meet Colorado’s year-old mandate to generate at least 30-percent of its electricity from renewable resources eight full years ahead of the mandate’s 2020 deadline.

“The fact that Xcel is going to be able to meet Colorado’s renewable energy standard only two years after the law was passed, and eight full years before the law requires it, demonstrates that clean and safe alternatives to dirty and dangerous coal-fired power are available today,” said Roger Singer, Regional Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Colorado.

When Colorado approved a 30 percent Renewable Portfolio Standard in last year’s legislative session, it was the most ambitious renewable energy standard in the country (California has since approved a 33 percent standard). Yet even this ambitious standard was easily surpassed.

“We can’t afford to lose this great momentum and the many new jobs it creates,” Singer said.  “We are capable of so much more. If clean energy can succeed in Colorado, it can succeed all over America.”

Expensive Indiana Coal Plant to Phase Out as Utility Turns To Wind Power

Last week, Virginia-based Dominion Resources announced that it would likely phase out its State Line Power Station coal-fired power plant, located on the Illinois-Indiana border near Chicago.  Faced with installing necessary pollution protections to bring the plant into compliance with clean air protections, Dominion decided that coal was simply too costly an investment. 

Another sign of the ongoing trend toward clean energy production, as Dominion is planning to phase out the State Line coal-fired power plant, the company is simultaneously proposing to build a 750-megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana and is partnering with another firm to develop wind projects near the Kincaid coal-fired plant in Illinois.

“The American energy industry is transforming before our eyes. Our energy sector is finally shifting from reliance on antiquated, polluting coal plants to smart, modern clean energy technology,” said Nilles.  “We have a long way yet to go, but this is exciting progress.”

Coal Continues to Decline

Coal-fired power, on the other hand, continued its steady decline.  Not only has the energy output from coal-fired power plants dropped 9.5 percent according to EIA, but the average cost of coal increased, getting 4.9 percent more expensive in the past year.

“Coal is getting more expensive, and Americans are relying on coal less,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.  “People nationwide are abandoning this outdated source of electricity and moving to clean, reliable sources of energy that don’t make their families sick. 

"Given the devastating harm that coal pollution poses to our health as a nation, and the huge potential job creation that will come from a rapid expansion of clean energy, it is not at all surprising that coal is beginning to lose its stranglehold on America’s energy production,” Hitt concluded.

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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