In the US, two types of electricity generation are on the rise: natural gas and renewables. If one of those is set to make a bigger mark than the other this year, it’s natural gas: in 2018, natural gas-burning capacity is expected to outpace renewable capacity for the first time in five years, according to data from the Energy Information Agency.
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All that additional natural gas capacity—approximately 21 GW expected this year—could spell trouble for the already-troubled coal and nuclear industries. Once a new gas facility is built, it makes it easier to close down older, inefficient coal plants, even if the price of natural gas rises a little. Coal plant closures have been happening for years already, and the Trump Administration has made a point of promising to bring coal back. But officials are having trouble finding a legal and politically acceptable way of boosting coal at the expense of natural gas, which is also a big US-based industry.
For nuclear, the problem is similar. The EIA wrote this week that the US nuclear energy industry is fighting not just against the falling cost of natural gas and renewable energy, also against the “limited growth in electric power demand.”