Wind and Natural Gas Trump Coal in Europe and the U.S. – 2/24/17

More wind power was installed than any other form of energy last year in Europe, industry figures show.

European wind power grew 8%, to 153.7 GW, comprising 16.7% of installed capacity and overtaking coal as the continent’s second-biggest potential source of energy, according to figures published by the WindEurope trade group. Gas-fired generation retained the largest share of installed capacity.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., a coal-burning power plant on the ropes is testing the President’s commitment to propping up the fuel as he promised.

Majority owners of the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz., opened in 1974 and one of the biggest coal plants in the country, said this week they won’t keep running the plant after 2019 because buying natural-gas-fired electricity is more economically sound.

But the president of the Navajo Nation—whose reservation holds the plant and a coal mine — is opposing the plant’s closure and loss of 800 jobs that would likely follow. Now, he is calling on the president to keep the U.S. coal industry afloat with special treatment.

“We are going to seek a solution based on what we feel needs to be done,” Mr. Begaye said. “Tax breaks, subsidies, a real strong verbiage from the White House, from President Trump himself.”

While breaks and other special treatment from the government might help to subsidize the Navajo Generating Station, coal-fired power is struggling to compete with natural gas, and the coal sector’s outlook remains bleak.

If Mr. Trump follows through on campaign pledges to support coal mines and plants, he would be fighting against a market reality. An abundance of low-cost natural gas, a fuel that competes directly with coal to generate electricity, has caused permanent shifts in the U.S.

“The reason we’ve had such a decline in coal? It’s not the regulations. It’s natural gas,” said Hans Daniels, chief executive of Doyle Trading Consultants, a coal market analysis firm.

Since May 2013, when the last large coal-burning power plant was commissioned, 246 coal plants have been shut down in the U.S., according to federal data. Over the same period, 305 natural gas plants have opened.

Mr. Begaye said he has asked the White House to help ensure the plant stays open until at least 2030 and to help the tribe develop natural-gas generators and renewable energy on tribal land.

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