Michael Bloomberg is doubling down on his climate ambition to “finish the job on coal” and shut down all remaining coal-fired power plants in the United States by 2030.
As part of the Beyond Carbon campaign, Bloomberg, who is also the UN Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions, announced this week an additional $500 million commitment to end coal-fired generation in the U.S., block all new natural gas plants, and slash gas plant capacity by half by the end of the decade.
Bloomberg, via Bloomberg Philanthropies, will continue to invest to expand the Beyond Carbon campaign, a Sierra Club campaign launched in 2011, to which Bloomberg first contributed $50 million. In 2019, Bloomberg announced an initial $500 million commitment “to help finish the job transitioning the country from coal and other fossil fuels to 100 percent clean power.”
“Shut down every last U.S. coal plant”
Now, the businessman and former New York City mayor is pledging another $500 million in the next phase of the campaign, which aims to “shut down every last U.S. coal plant.”
Part of the efforts of Bloomberg’s campaign will include raising U.S. clean energy capacity four-fold to reach a goal of 80% of electricity generation by 2030.
Bloomberg’s ambition fits in the current U.S. Administration’s goal to have a “carbon pollution-free electricity sector by 2035.”
While coal plants have been retiring at a fast pace in recent years due to the financial pressure of lower profitability compared to natural gas and renewables, halving gas capacity and stopping all new gas plants is a task even the billionaire Bloomberg is unlikely to achieve.
Coal plants are retiring, but natural gas – currently the single largest source of U.S. power generation – is helping stabilize the grids when renewables such as solar and wind falter.
Battery storage is helping with the intermittency of solar and wind power generation, but for renewables plus storage to take over from all the coal and half the gas capacity, America will need more investments than the $500 million Bloomberg has just committed—much more than the net worth of Bloomberg himself.
Analysts and researchers have said that America needs to double the size of its grid to keep up with the renewables surge and the electrification of everything from buildings to transportation. Some have pegged the necessary investment for grid upgrades at up to $2 trillion through 2050.
Coal Capacity Retirements
“Today marks a new chapter in the Beyond Carbon campaign, as we move to finish the job,” Bloomberg, who is also founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, said in the statement announcing the latest $500-million pledge.
“By working with our partners across the country, we hope to transform the way we power America by moving beyond fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable energy.”
In the Beyond Carbon campaign, shutting down all coal-fired power plants by 2030 seems like the most feasible pledge.
There are around 150 still operating coal-fired power plants in the United States, and Bloomberg wants to “finish the job on coal.”
“With 372 of 530 coal plants announced to retire or closed to date – more than 70 percent of the country’s coal fleet – this next phase will shut down every last U.S. coal plant,” Bloomberg Philanthropies said.
This year alone, operators plan to retire 15.6 gigawatts (GW) of electric-generating capacity in the United States, mostly natural gas-fired (6.2 GW) and coal-fired (8.9 GW) power plants, the EIA says. Coal and natural gas retirements will account for 98% of U.S. capacity retirements in 2023.
“Aging coal-fired power plants compete with a growing number of highly efficient, modern natural gas-fired power plants and low-cost renewables, such as wind and solar, more of these coal-fired power plants are being retired,” the administration notes.
Due to continued competition from natural gas and renewables, as of November 2022, a total of 23% of all the 200,568 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired capacity operating in the United States had reported plans to retire by the end of 2029.
U.S. coal capacity will decrease by 2050 in all scenarios, but it doesn’t drop to zero in any of those cases, the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2023 showed.
“The coal-fired generation in all three cases comes from the newer, more efficient coal-fired power plants that will remain online because they can provide lower-cost, dispatchable power to the grid,” according to the EIA.
In 2022, coal accounted for 19.5% of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation, second only to natural gas, which had a 39.8% share. Nuclear followed with 18.2%, and wind had a 10.2% share of America’s power generation.
Halving natural gas capacity and stopping all new gas plants would be a more difficult task for Bloomberg, the Sierra Club, and other campaigners for a clean energy grid as soon as possible.
So far this year, all major U.S. power markets have relied more on natural gas to keep a balanced grid system. Despite the growth in solar, wind, and battery installations, renewable power generation has been basically flat this year as natural gas has been the power source to pick up the slack when wind speeds were low or hydropower generation faltered due to lower water reservoir levels.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
More Top Reads from Oilprice.com:
- Detroit's Auto Giants Reel As UAW Strikes Bite Hard
- Biden Met With Central Asian Leaders To Discuss Trade And Development
- Egypt Eyes Energy Revival With Zohr Gas Field Expansion