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Disclaimer. After nearly 40 years managing money for some of the largest life offices and investment managers in the world, I think I have something to offer. These days I'm retired, and I can't by law give you advice. I do make mistakes, but I try hard to do my analysis thoroughly, and to make sure my data are correct. Remember: the unexpected sometimes happens. The expected does too, but all too often it takes longer than you thought it would.

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Two thirds of new US generating capacity from renewables



In 2016, 61.5% of new electric generation capacity in the USA was renewables.  This is the second year in a row that renewables have dominated.  In 2015, it was 64.8%.  In 2014, it was 49.6%.  But those numbers are actually even better than they look, because they only show new capacity, not net new capacity.  In 2015, 6736 MW of non-renewable capacity (oil, gas or coal, but mostly gas) was added, but 13556 MW of coal capacity was removed.  In 2016, 5327 of coal capacity was planned to be removed, and 6898 of gas-fired generation was installed.  So, in effect, in 2015 and 2016, 100% or more of net new capacity was renewables.  Gas fits well into a green grid, because it can be scaled up or down rapidly in response to supply or demand fluctuations, whereas coal can't, so replacing coal with gas is consistent with continued growth in the percentage of renewables in the mix.  Ultimately, gas will be replaced with CSP or batteries or other forms of storage, but for now the rising gas percentage is perfectly consistent with an increasing contribution from renewables.

There's not much Trump and his oily cabinet can do about this.  It's being driven by cost declines.  Yes, there are tax credits which will expire in 4 years, but by then wind and solar will be 30 or 40 or 50% cheaper.  Or (in theory) they could be abolished now, but to do that, Trump has to get Congress to vote them away, and lots of Republican politicians are actually in favour of the tax credits because wind or solar benefit their districts.  Of course, they could always do a Wyoming.  There's no curing deep-rooted stupidity.

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