“The United States actually uses less electricity today than it did back in 2007, even as the population keeps growing.There are a few reasons for that: American homes have gotten far more energy-efficient with the spread of LED light bulbs and energy-saving appliances. And industrial electricity use fell significantly after the financial crisis and hasn’t fully rebounded.
If electricity consumption is flat, then all the different sources of energy we use — coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind — are locked in zero-sum competition with one another. If a new natural gas plant or wind farm goes up, something else has to get pushed off the grid. The rise of fracking has made natural gas incredibly cheap. Solar and wind, already subsidized by Congress, have seen their costs drop dramatically. As a result, coal and nuclear power are losing market share fast.
Some states have worried that letting their nuclear plants retire in favor of natural gas would increase greenhouse gas emissions. Many lawmakers have proposed subsidies to keep those reactors running. But in states like Pennsylvania, the gas industry has lobbied hard against this idea. And some local utilities have fought policies that encourage homeowners to install solar panels on their roofs, not least because it would cut into their own already-stagnating sales.”
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