DOE Grid Report Pins Coal Decline Primarily on Economics of Natural Gas

On August 23, 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) publicly released a long‑anticipated study of the U.S. electrical grid titled “Staff Report to the Secretary on Electricity Markets and Grid Reliability.” The report followed on suggestions by the Trump Administration that increasing concerns regarding grid reliability were warranted as a result of increased renewable energy adoption over the last decade. The report quashed those concerns.

In addition, it pinned the declining competitiveness of traditional baseload power sources—coal and nuclear—primarily on the economics of natural gas. Although the specific conclusions of the report are contestable, they are directionally consistent with earlier analyses by economic and energy experts: because of relatively cheap and abundant natural gas produced from shale formations, natural gas has successfully challenged coal for market share, while facilitating the use of renewable energy.

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