Although it sounds counterintuitive to rely on a fossil fuel to support the transition into cleaner energy, natural gas will inevitably play a huge role in the clean energy movement.
And there are actually quite a few benefits to using more natural gas power in the quest to lower emissions.
One of the drawbacks to renewables is consistency. The sun goes down, the wind stops blowing (or blows too hard!), and even river tides aren’t always as strong as they need to be.
Natural gas power, however, has become reliable for U.S. electrical generation. Yet, even if renewable sources become the dominant part of our energy portfolio, natural gas will still be the best choice to cover down-times.
And let’s also keep in mind that coal has a limited flexibility compared to natural gas when it comes to adjusting its output in response to intermittent renewables like solar and wind.
Natural gas plants can more smoothly connect to the grid during peak times of day or when renewable power isn’t available.
Of course, we also have to take the emission levels themselves into account. Modern natural gas-fired power plants emit only a fraction of the harmful chemicals like carbon dioxide that coal emits.
The main obstacle holding the Clean Power Plan back, however, is the cost of switching to cleaner energy sources. Coal has been the majority of our energy portfolio almost constantly for a reason: it’s cheap, abundant, and it produces reliable power.
Yet, the shale boom made natural gas extremely cheap and abundant as well — twice this year it has surpassed coal as our primary energy source because of this.
And finally, the biggest change that has to take place involves the integration of mass energy storage capacity. Without this, renewables will never become cost-effective primary energy sources.
Natural gas has shown — twice, as I said — that it can carry the bulk of our energy demand, and energy storage capacity will only facilitate an even quicker move away from dirtier energy sources.
Coal is still one of the most affordable energy sources we have available, and renewables and energy storage just aren’t at the capacity they need to be to overtake it.
In other words, we can still experience that smooth transition away from coal by utilizing natural gas… and that fact may be a harsh reality for some to swallow, but at least it beats the alternative.
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Until next time,
A true insider in the technology and energy markets, Keith’s research has helped everyday investors capitalize from the rapid adoption of new technology trends and energy transitions. Keith connects with hundreds of thousands of readers as the Managing Editor of Energy & Capital, as well as the investment director of Angel Publishing’s Energy Investor and Technology and Opportunity.
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