Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The End of American Fossil Fuels


The incoming Biden administration has set a goal to decarbonize the U.S. power sector by 2035. Currently over 60% of electricity in the United States is generated from fossil fuels. Therefore if the new administration wants to meet its ambitious 2035 goal the government clearly has a lot to do.

Decarbonizing the U.S. energy sector will require the construction of new renewable power plants and the decommissioning of existing fossil fuel plants. This does sound like a huge task. However most fossil fuel power plants will complete their natural life-spans before 2035 and will need replacing regardless of the Biden decarbonizing goal.

You can observe the timeline of when fossil fuel power plants will reach the end of their planned lifespans on The future of United States fossil fuel-fired electricity interactive map. If you adjust the timeline on this map you can see how the total output of fossil fuel power plants will naturally drop from 820GW in 2018 to 200GW in 2035. Just by replacing these fossil fuel plants with renewable energy sources will go a long way to decarbonizing the U.S. power sector. 

On the interactive map the location of power plants are shown using colored dots. These dots disappear from the map based on the date when the power plant will come to the planned end of its lifespan.If you hover over a county on the map you can view the total number of jobs in the plant, coal and gas sectors for the selected year.

You can learn more about the natural obsolescence of the current fossil fueled power plants in the U.S. on a Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering research paper, Shuttering Fossil Fuel Power Plants May Cost Less Than Expected.

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