2019 in Renewable Energy

The move toward renewables is continuing despite Trump.

Despite the efforts of the Trump Administration, renewable energy has continued to thrive.  Key states are imposing rigorous deadlines for reducing power generation from fossil fuels.  Economic trends are also supporting renewables. In the first half of 2019, Texas produced more power from renewables than coal.

Texas may be content to rely on market forces, but other states are taking a more active hand in shaping their energy futures. Here are the new renewable energy mandates and targets of 2019:

  • In January 2019, the District of Columbia increased its RPS target to 100% renewable electricity sales by 2040.
  • New Mexico mandated 100% zero-carbon electricity by 2045, up from the previous target of 20% renewable generation by 2020.
  • Maine adopted a 100% target for 2050.
  • Maryland  increased its  target to 50% of electricity sales from renewable generation by 2030, (up from the previous target of 22.5% by 2024).
  • New York adopted a 100% target for 2040, with an interim target of 70% by 2030.
  • Nevada increased its RPS to 50% of sales from renewable generation by 2030, including a goal of 100% of electricity sales from clean energy by 2050.

Ohio was the outlier, cutting its renewable energy requirement from 12% to 8%, tying itself ever more closely to the past of the energy system rather than its future.

The Energy Information Agency (part of the Department of Energy) “forecasts that utility-scale renewable fuels, including wind, solar, and hydropower, will collectively produce 18% of U.S. electricity in 2019 and 19% in 2020. EIA expects that annual generation from wind will surpass hydropower generation for the first time in 2019 to become the leading source of renewable electricity generation and that it will maintain that position in 2020.”

According to Forbes, “the average cost of developing new power plants based on onshore wind, solar photovoltaic (PV), biomass or geothermal energy is now usually below $0.10/kWh. Not far behind that is offshore wind, which costs close to $0.13/kWh.”  Prices for conventional plants are $0.05-$0.10, making renewable quite competitive.

Energy storage is also increasingly affordable. According to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the levelized cost of electricity from lithium-ion batteries in late March had fallen by a third since the first half of 2018.  Since 2012, the price has fallen 70%.

Of course, there’s a huge amount of work that remains to be done. We’ve eliminated many of the least economic coal plants; getting rid of the remainder will be harder. And natural gas has expanded rapidly due to fracking, a trend that we need to cap and then reverse.  But at least it’s clear that Trump has no more been able to turn back the energy tide than King Canute managed with sea.

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Reader Comments

2 Replies to “2019 in Renewable Energy”

  1. It is crucial to the future of wind and solar sources and high tech batteries to both reduce the on and off-site negative impacts on the people, land and waters of the mine, mill and smelter sites that produce the metals required. When solar farms are located on high value agricultural land, displacing food and forage, the environmental impacts and economic costs of production increase. High temp solar kills birds. Birds and bats are killed by wind turbines. There is no form of energy production without negative environmental impacts.

  2. The negative aspects of industrial-scale solar farms need to be publicized more and the alternatives promoted. The negative aspects may be simplified to the industrialization of land, which removes it from natural processes, and the barriers to wildlife movement. The alternatives are many.

    The most obvious alternative is rooftop solar. This destroys no more land, utilizes wasted space, and puts power generation near to existing power consumption and electrical infrastructure. True, some existing rooftops may not be able to take the weight or be oriented in the best direction, but building codes should require this on new structures. Solar farm projects, including community solar, should be directed to rooftops. This can be done with contracts with building owners that benefit both the owner and the project. Surely the cost of developing new land for a solar farm could be spread across multiple rooftops, and leave the land for nature, or if necessary, other development that includes rooftop solar. Single-use land, as in either “warehouse” or “solar farm”, is a luxury on this crowded planet.

    Other alternatives are those that use already disturbed land. Solar farms built on former landfills or strip mine sites are more tolerable than stripping undisturbed land. Putting lines of solar panels along highways is another technique that has already been done. Covering walkways and parking lots with solar panels generates electrical power and provides shade and rain protection for people using those areas. There is so much that could be done to minimize our development footprint on the landscape while expanding renewable solar energy production.

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About Dan

Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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