We are close to the tipping point! A few years ago, renewable energy was the socially responsible way to go. It made sense in terms of saving the planet but cost more than fossil fuel-generated electricity and therefore was unacceptable to most utility bosses, whose horizons were at best three months into the future.

No more. Although It makes even more sense now as a way to combat climate change,  renewables also cost less. Thanks to technological advances, the cost of electricity from wind and solar “has plummeted over the last five years, so  much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas.” Utilities are signing contracts with wind and solar facilities in places like Oklahoma (a notorious leftist hangout) at lower prices than  they pay for natural gas.

The banking firm Lazard reports that “the cost of utulity-scale solar energy is as low as 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour, and wind is as low as 1.4 cents. In comparison, natural gas comes at 6.1 cents a kilowatt-hour on the low end and coal at 6.6 cents.” Average prices in the Plains states are 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour for wind, versus 5 cents in 2009.

The solar Energy Industries Association says that  electricity from large-scale solar projects now costs 70 percent less than in 2008.

Government subsidies have played a major role in this dramatic change, and they may soon disappear, keeping the pestilent fossil fuel industries alive for a few more years. A carbon tax would provide a final overdue stake to the heart of this gasping monster.

(NYT, 11/24/14)


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