National grid expansion in 2022 |

Coal plant retirements and national grid expansion in 2022

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The energy sector will see big changes in the upcoming year, including a more rapid shift towards renewable energy sources. The Energy Innovation think tank (EI) predicts more coal plants will retire in 2022. Experts also anticipate a significant jump in the share of power generated by solar and wind.

Approximately two-thirds of U.S. coal power plants have announced their retirement in the past decade, EI notes. This trend shows no signs of stopping and could even speed up over the coming year. According to the Energy Information Administration, 85% of all power plant retirements for 2022 are coal facilities. Coal plants with a generating capacity of 12.6 gigawatts will go offline in 2022., which amounts to 6% of total US coal power-producing capacity.

Most remaining coal plants were built during the 1970s and 1980s, meaning they’re approaching the end of their working lives. EI expects coal burning for electricity generation to end during the current decade in the US.

A big year for renewables

Energy Innovation believes new policy initiatives will “catalyze decarbonization across the economy” in 2022. The electricity sector will lead this shift. This sector will see another record year of solar and wind energy growth. A major driver for this expansion will be utility-owned green energy projects.

S&P Global Market Intelligence agrees with this outlook. In a recent report, S&P estimated that 44 gigawatts of solar energy would come online this year. That’s almost double the 23 gigawatts of new solar facilities that began operations in 2021.

The growth expectations for wind are almost as impressive. Wind energy set its previous annual record for new installations in 2020 when 16 gigawatts of capacity came online. S&P expects another 27 gigawatts of wind generation to join the grid in 2022. Texas has the largest wind generating capacity.

“If the current administration is successful in putting the U.S. on a path to 100% decarbonization of the energy sector by 2035, these record-setting projections are just the beginning,” the company added.

More wind and solar energy means greater opportunities for battery storage on the grid. Storage companies installed a record 3.5 gigawatt-hours of battery capacity during the third quarter of 2021. Utility Dive expects new federal tax credits for battery facilities to accelerate the storage growth.

Grid will expand to meet demand for clean energy

The EI think tank predicts new federal rules and investments will boost the buildout of transmission infrastructure in 2022. This development could significantly expand energy jobs. EI points out that every $1 billion invested in large-scale grid infrastructure creates roughly 7,000 construction jobs. It also adds between $2 billion and $3 billion in customer benefits.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) plans to adopt new rules this year on transmission-related issues. These include regulations to speed up the building of inter-state transmission infrastructure and planning of transmission projects.

“FERC’s regulation is central to the resilient, reliable future grid that’s already developing,” commented John Moore of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Still, two major challenges confront the power grid. The first issue is transporting clean energy to areas far from green energy facilities. The increase in offshore wind generation will demand more transmission capacity to bring power to residents and businesses in large cities. 

The second issue is expanding infrastructure to manage electric vehicle (EV) growth. This challenge requires more EV charging stations and transmission line upgrades to meet higher electricity demand.

What will the changes in 2022 mean for me?

If the experts at Energy Innovation are correct, you could see a big impact on how you get your energy. Green energy is growing even in parts of the country that have traditionally relied on coal. For example, the largest coal power plant retirement planned for 2022 is a 1.3 gigawatt facility in Ohio. Ohio is one of the biggest coal-burning states.

The potential improvements to the power grid could help ensure you have a secure supply of energy for years to come. Energy stability is already a major issue because of increasingly extreme weather patterns.

A stronger power grid may also make electric vehicles a more attractive option for you. Analysts expect Americans to purchase almost 2 million EVs in 2022, which would be a record high. One reason for this is that EV prices are dropping sharply. This year will see EVs shift from “novelty” to “mainstream,” Energy Innovation concludes.