Resources for Teachers and Students
FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 18, 2020
Share two facts from any environmental coverage.
Look for recent or archived news about your area's electric power utiliy. Summarize the topic.
Can you find a post or photo of an alternative energy source?
Here's something to cheer: Our country is expected to generate more electricity in 2020 from renewable power than from coal for the first time on record, a government forecast says. A decade ago, by contrast, coal provided nearly half the nation's electricity. Now that share drops as power companies increasingly rely on wind, solar energy, hydroelectricity (water power), wood, geothermal and even trash to fuel generators.The transformation to those renewable resources is good news for the fight against climate change. Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel, and its decline already has helped drive down United States carbon dioxide emissions 15 percent since 2005. Through mid-May this year, America's wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric dams have produced more electricity than coal on 90 days, compared to last year's record of 38 days for all of 2019.
The latest report from the Energy Information Administration estimates that U.S. coal consumption will fall by nearly one-quarter this year, and coal plants are expected to provide just 19 percent of American electricity. The federal agency also expects energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. to decrease by 11%, the largest drop in at least 70 years.
The balance began shifting long before the coronavirus pandemic, but is partly accelerated by it. Here's why: Electricity use drops sharply as factories, stores, restaurants, schools and offices shut down nationwide to slow the lung virus' spread. Many utilities cut back on coal power first because that source is costlier than alternatives. A similar pattern is seen overseas. "The only thing we have to be afraid of, is that governments can be pushed by lobbyists to bail out sectors that belong to the past. And this is the real danger," says Francesco La Camera, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, based in the United Arab Emirates.
Engineer says: "Coal has been pushed to the margins and it's wind and solar that are the cheapest options." -- Daniel Cohan, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University in Houston
Industry representative says: "The coal fleet is not dead. There is still a significant amount of coal that’s going to be needed in the future to make sure we don’t risk and threaten the reliability of the grid." – Michelle Bloodworth, chief executive of America's Power, a trade group
Clean-energy advocate says: "In some parts of the country, we're now seeing renewable penetration hit 60 or 70 percent on some days." -- Nat Kreamer, chief executive of Advanced Energy Economy, a Washington, D.C., group
Lessons & Classroom Activities
Resources by grade level