The National Resources Defense Council recently reported on a study published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences that found that using solar and wind power is now cheaper than using coal. If we factor in the increasing health and environmental problems that are being caused by the burning of fossil fuel, we find that it is less expensive to “go green”-use solar and wind to generate electricity in the United States. According to the NRDC the study factors in collateral costs of burning fossil fuels and proves that coal power is now the less economical choice. “It’s less costly to get electricity from wind turbines and solar panels than coal-fired power plants when climate change costs and other health impacts are factored in.”
Dr. Laurie Johnson, chief economist in the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council said “We can reduce health and climate change costs while reducing the dangerous carbon pollution driving global warming.” Johnson co-authored the study, “The Social Cost of Carbon: Implications for Modernizing our Electricity System,” with Chris Hope of the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge; and Starla Yeh in NRDC’s Center for Market Innovation. “Working together, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the Treasury Department, the Department of Energy and eight other federal agencies put a dollar value on those damages, in an official figure called the “social cost of carbon” (SCC).”
The NRDC press release and its referenced study are important because it challenges the power industry’s assertions about coal being a cheap, albeit dirty, source of power. The study broadens the definition of “costs” by including health and environmental factors in the equation. This is an enormous problem for the fossil fuel industry who have long touted the affordability of coal even in the age of cleaner energies.
CleanTechnica. “Solar and wind power now cheaper than coal power in the U.S. | The Raw Story.” Solar and wind power now cheaper than coal power in the U.S.,The Raw Story, September 22,2013 http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/09/22/solar-and-wind-power-now-cheaper-than-coal-power-in-the-u-s/
Elizabeth Heyd, “U.S. Underestimates Costs of Carbon Pollution and Climate Change”, NRDC: Press Release, September 23, 2013 http://www.nrdc.org/media/2012/120917.asp
Student Researcher: Joanne Vosmek (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)