A long row of solar panels shine in the sun.
Credit: Jonathan Cutrer / Flickr

👋 Hello and welcome to Energy News Weekly!

This week, we’re diving into a new report that shows how the economy is tipping in favor of clean energy. The analysis found it’s cheaper just about everywhere to replace existing coal power plants with new solar arrays and wind farms — and federal incentives are sure to boost renewables even more.

Wind and solar power have been the cheapest source of new electricity generation for a couple of years now, even as pandemic and trade disputes have disrupted supply chains and connecting to the grid remains expensive.

But what’s new in this report is just how cheap renewables are in comparison to coal. In nearly every case, clean energy policy firm Energy Innovation found utilities would save money if they switched to clean energy immediately rather than waiting for their coal plants to reach the end of their useful lives.

It costs about $36 to produce 1 megawatt-hour of electricity from the average U.S. coal plant, the report found. Meanwhile, it costs about $24 to build enough solar panels to produce the same amount of electricity, even when you take materials, construction and grid interconnection costs into account. That’s like if the savings from ditching a gas-guzzling car exceeded the cost of a new monthly car loan payment.

In some places, coal is considerably more expensive than the average — $165 per megawatt-hour at North Carolina’s Allen coal plant, for example.

Making the switch to renewables could result in huge savings in these coal communities, which they could then reinvest to help residents losing their jobs shuttering coal plants. And that doesn’t even get into the climate and public health benefits of swapping coal power for something cleaner.

You can read more about what Energy Innovation found at the Guardian, and find the whole report here.

More clean energy news

🔍 How to combat utility corruption: As utilities fight decarbonization through secretive political spending and public influence campaigns, the Energy and Policy Institute recommends that lawmakers and regulators mandate utilities disclose their political spending and fine those that don’t comply. (Grist)

🛢️ Oil’s environmental injustices: Analysis of U.S. EPA data reveals oil refineries release billions of pounds of water pollution annually in ways that disproportionately affect people of color, especially on the Gulf Coast and in Chicago and California. (NPR)

☠️ Getting serious on coal ash: The U.S. EPA denies requests from six coal plant operators to keep dumping toxic ash into unlined or inadequately lined pits, signaling the agency’s commitment to enforce 2015 federal rules that had previously been ignored. (Energy News Network)

🤐 Don’t say “climate:” House Republicans are preparing a broad legislative package aimed at overhauling energy permitting and boosting carbon sequestration, according to a legislative aide, though they won’t use the word “climate.” (E&E News)

💡 Lights out: A new report contrasts U.S. utilities’ record profits in 2022 with the estimated 4.2 million times they shut off service, disproportionately harming low-income customers and communities of color. (Guardian)

🚋 More trains, less automobiles: Advocates criticize the federal government’s promotion of personal electric vehicles as a climate solution over public transit. (Bloomberg)

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Kathryn brings her extensive editorial background to the Energy News Network team, where she oversees the early-morning production of ENN’s five email digest newsletters as well as distribution of ENN’s original journalism with other media outlets. From documenting chronic illness’ effect on college students to following the inner workings of Congress, Kathryn has built a broad experience in her more than five years working at major publications including The Week Magazine. Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Science in magazine journalism and information management and technology from Syracuse University.