The Keene City Council is considering a resolution that says by the year 2030, all electricity must come from renewable sources. This is realistic and sensible from a consumer’s perspective. If anything, the timetable may be too slow.
Lazard Inc. is a financial advisory firm that produces an annual report on electricity costs by fuel. In 2018 it reported that the cheapest way to generate electricity in the USA is with wind. Solar is a little higher and about the same price as the cheapest natural gas units. All other fuels are more expensive, with nuclear being among the most expensive.
Utilities across the country are closing coal and nuclear power plants and embracing wind and solar. Recently, the Northern Indiana Public Service Co., which supplies electricity to an area that includes many large industrial firms, announced it would close most of its coal plants by 2023 and all by 2028. Instead, it will rely on wind, solar, and batteries. This is a business decision by a utility that has been wedded to coal for the past 60-plus years. There is nothing ideological about it. The company calculated it will save ratepayers $4 billion in 10 years.
Xcel Energy is a huge coal-based utility that spans eight western states. This year Xcel announced, for purely economic reasons, it will close all its coal-fired power stations and switch to renewables. Colorado has already approved Xcel’s closure of coal power plants and $2.5 billion purchase of solar, wind and batteries. This will save customers in Colorado $213 million.
Utilities need to plan for the next decade and price signals show renewable power will be cheaper and fossil fuel and nuclear power will be more expensive. In fact, in 2018 the price of solar with battery storage became cheaper than a traditional natural gas peaker plant! This happened despite the depressed price of natural gas and President Trump’s 30 percent tariffs on solar panels.
Solar energy (with battery storage and grid interconnects) is a sound solution for New Hampshire. Distributed local solar arrays means we can avoid expensive power transmission costs, achieve higher service reliability, and be insulated from the ups and downs of fossil fuel prices.
The resolution being considered by Keene City Council would send a signal to Eversource that New Hampshire expects, like the rest of the country, to reap the benefits of low-cost renewable energy.
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
Keene State College
229 Main St.