Solar, wind on track to phase out coal as cheaper energy alternatives: analysis

Solar and wind power are on track to overtake coal as cost-effective energy sources, according to a new study released Monday.

The report from Energy Innovation, a nonpartisan think tank, indicates that economics alone may play the biggest role in driving U.S. consumer energy use towards renewable sources.

The analysis, called "The Coal Cost Crossover," found that existing coal options are increasingly more expensive than cleaner alternatives. As it stands, local wind and solar could replace nearly 74 percent of the U.S. coal fleet today and still save customers money, the report found.

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And those numbers are expected to get even better for consumers. By 2025, it’s expected that 86 percent of coal plants could be replaced by solar and wind energy for cheaper costs.

The findings show that the two renewable energy sources are joining natural gas as energy alternatives that pose big economic threats to struggling coal.

Coal, a natural resource linked to some of the worst greenhouse gas pollution, has increasingly struggled in recent years as natural gas production grew cheaper. A number of coal fired plants shuttered across the U.S. in 2018 with retirements expected to continue in 2019 as plants become too expensive to maintain.

“Due to the rapid recent cost decline of wind and solar, the combined fuel, maintenance, and other going-forward costs of coal-fired power from many existing coal plants is now more expensive than the all-in costs of new wind or solar projects. This cost crossover raises substantial questions for regulators and utilities as to why these coal plants should keep running instead of new renewable power plants,” the report read.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? MORE has repeatedly vowed to bring jobs back to the coal industry, saying that the energy source was key to America’s energy independence. During his first State of the Union address, Trump praised “beautiful, clean coal.”

His administration has struggled, however, to maintain that goal. At this year's State of the Union, he failed to mention the energy source altogether, instead praising the country’s strength in natural gas production.