Reuters ran on June 16th an article with the headline, "Gas Is Killing Green Energy in Price War." The piece was based on comments made at a London conference. So gas is supposedly poisoning our waters, dirtier than coal, and killing green energy. Quite an indictment, but all of it is hyberbolic and untrue.
Specifically, as distinguished from conference comments, the facts, the data, about renewable energy production and plant under construction at least in the USA contradict the fashionable claim that low gas prices are killing Green Energy. (Gas prices are much higher in Asia and some other parts of the world than in the USA).
Consider these facts:
1. Grid connected USA solar power in the first quarter of 2011 increased 66% over first quarter 2010. See solar market reports at http://www.seia.org/. Or http://www.seia.org/cs/research/Solarinsight.
2. Total annual USA solar installations in 2008 were approximately 450 mw; but 950 mw in 2010; and projected to be a record 2,000 megawatts in 2011. These annual numbers document spectacular increases when gas prices have been typically below $5 per thousand cubic feet.
3. Right now 1,160 megawatts of concentrating solar thermal plants are under construction in USA.
4. Xcel and FPL are two utilities that actually married in 2010 gas to solar and wind to boost the viability of solar in hybrid gas-solar/wind systems. Gas in fact will increasingly be vital to building out both solar and wind to manage intermittency of both when market penetrations exceed 10% of total capacity.
5. Pennsylvania's SEIA ranking jumped from 8th in solar installation in the first quarter of 2010 to 4th in the first quarter of 2011. Pennsylvania growth reflected policy support from the General Assembly and Governor Rendell, sharply lower solar prices, stimulus funding, and federal tax credits.
6. 2011 will be a record year globally for solar with up to an incredible 20,000 megawatts of solar added.
So if US and global solar is booming, perhaps low gas prices are killing wind. Actually not.
7. First quarter 2011 wind installations were 1,118 megawatts in 12 states compared to 541 megawatts in the first quarter of 2010. In other words, so far wind in 2011 is up more than 100% compared to 2010.
8. Another 5,600 megawatts of wind in 26 states, including Pennsylvania, is under construction. Today twice the amount is under construction as at the same time in 2009 and 2010, both strong years for total wind installation in the USA. See data reported at http://www.awea.org/ in Awea's first quarter 2011 Market Report
And what do national renewable energy production levels for the first quarter of 2011reported by the Energy Information Administration show (http://www.eia.gov/)?
9. Renewable energy hit record levels, providing 13.4% of all electricity produced in the USA from January to March 2011. See earlier posting. The high production was a function of booming wind production, growing solar generation, and a spike in hydro due to large rainfall.
10. None of the facts add up to gas is killing Green Energy.
Low priced gas has lowered the wholesale price of electricity and challenges keeping old, inefficient fossil fuel and nuclear plants running and financing new plants of all types.
Lower electric prices have caused large closings of old coal plants. TVA announced in May the closing or refueling with gas of 18 coal units. AEP announced in June the closing or refueling of 12 coal units. The TVA and AEP announcements mean much cleaner air for Pennsylvania, especially for western Pa, where a lot of pollution blows in from the south and west.
Though gas is closing old coal plants, renewables continue to grow dramatically despite low-electricity prices. More on why in the next posting.