Renewable energy is not just better for the environment, it's also becoming cheaper than coal for electricity generation in many parts of the world, according to a new report.
Over 60% of current coal-fired power plants are producing electricity at a higher cost than new wind or solar installations would, according to findings of the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a self-described "not-for-profit financial think tank" focused on needling capital markets to adopt more climate-friendly policies.
More renewable energy generating capacity would also help further lower the overall carbon emissions of electric cars charged from the grid.
By 2030, it will be cheaper to build new wind or solar generating capacity than to continue operating coal power plants in all markets, according to the report.
In the European Union, 96% of existing coal generating capacity already costs more than it would to build new wind or solar installations, the report said. That's also the case for 71% of China's current coal generating capacity, and 51% of the coal power plants in India, the report found. And nearly half—47%—of current United States coal capacity costs more to operate than renewables, according to the report.
Coal power plant in China
Coal power plant in China
Utility companies already seem to understand the potential cost savings of ditching coal. U.S. coal plants were retired at a record rate in 2019, and no new coal generating capacity is planned. Granted, that is partly due to cheap and abundant natural gas, which has lower carbon emissions than coal, but isn't as clean as renewable sources.
The rapid retirement of coal power plants has come despite the best efforts of the Trump Administration. Under Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has loosened emissions standards for coal plants, part of the president's campaign promise to revitalize the coal industry.
"Investors should be wary of continued government support for coal when a phase-out will save their voters billions and make their economies more competitive," Sriya Sundaresan, co-author of the report, said in a statement.
The mix of electricity sources is worth paying attention to if you own, or plan to purchase, an electric car. Even accounting for the energy used in producing EV batteries, electric cars produce about 40% fewer greenhouse gases than the average internal combustion car around the world.
Electric cars also get cleaner as the grids they plug into do. That can't be said of internal combustion cars and their fuel sources.
Electrify America solar charging station
So a global reduction in coal-fired electricity generation could massively lower the overall emissions of electric cars.
If you're not willing to wait for that to happen, though, you can also disconnect from the grid and charge an electric car with a home solar array.