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Natural gas beat coal in US. Will renewables and storage soon beat gas?

July 09, 2019 / Devashree Saha

In April 2019, in the heart of coal country, Indiana regulators rejected a proposal by its electric and gas utility, Vectren, to replace baseload coal plants with a new $900 million, 850 megawatt (MW) natural gas-fired power plant. Regulators were concerned that with the dramatic decline in the cost of renewable energy, maturation of energy storage and rapidly changing customer demand, such a major gas plant investment could become a stranded, uneconomic asset in the future. Regulators are now pushing Vectren to consider more decentralized, lower-carbon resources such as wind, solar and storage that would offer greater resource diversity, flexibility and cost effectiveness. This decision is notable in a state where coal is still the primary energy fuel. At the same time, the Indiana decision hints at a broader transformation happening across the United States. Coal, the long-reigning king of the U.S. power sector, was officially dethroned by cheap, abundant natural gas in 2016. In 2018...