Maintaining reliability vital as generation sources change
Many aspects of the energy industry have evolved in recent years, but perhaps the biggest change is occurring in the resources used to produce your electricity.
The mix of energy sources for generating electricity in the United States has changed over time, especially in recent years. Natural gas and renewable energy sources like wind and solar account for an increasing share of U.S. electricity generation, while coal-fired electricity generation has declined.
As you probably know, Rock Energy does not generate any electricity. Instead, we purchase it from Alliant Energy and distribute it to members like you. We are asked from time to time how much of that electricity is produced from renewable sources.
This graphic shows that Alliant has been transitioning to a cleaner mix of renewable resources. Renewables accounted for just 5 percent of the energy mix in 2005, compared to 16 percent in 2017. By 2024, that number is expected to more than double when 33 percent of its electricity will be produced by renewable resources.
Nationwide, coal-fired power plants accounted for about 42 percent of total electricity generating capacity in 1990, according to data from the U.S. Department of Energy. By the end of 2017, that figure had decreased to 24 percent. Over the same period, the share of natural gas-fired electricity generating capacity more than doubled from 17 percent in 1990 to 42 percent in 2017.
Renewable electricity generation from sources other than hydropower has steadily increased, mainly because of additions to wind and solar generating capacity. Wind energy’s share of total electricity generation in the United States grew from 0.2 percent in 1990 to about 8 percent in 2017. Solar power, while relatively small in terms of its share of total generation, has grown significantly from 314 megawatts in 1990 to about 26,665 megawatts at the end of 2017.
As the nation transitions to cleaner energy, reliability must be considered. Electricity produced at power plants fired by coal and natural gas are extremely dependable and easily controlled. If more electricity is needed, the plant increases production and burns more coal or natural gas.
Renewable energy, however, has a variability problem. The sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow. Technology is evolving to make battery storage more feasible and affordable to deal with the intermittency of wind and solar power.
Resiliency of the electric grid is one of the most popular concepts talked about in the industry today.
Resiliency is many things: It’s reliability in your electric service. It’s our ability to efficiently restore your power. It’s being able to meet the demands of new technology. And it’s how we serve you with various generation sources without skipping a beat.
A resilient grid is flexible and adaptable by allowing different types of generation, such as wind, solar, coal, natural gas, and hydro, to work together seamlessly to provide you with safe and reliable power. It’s how we deliver on our promise to improve the quality of life for our members.
In addition to the above considerations, price must be a factor in how the overall generation mix is deployed and retired. All utility-scale generation sources are significant, long-term investments that will impact consumers for decades; so, each generation decision must be weighed carefully.
We truly appreciate the opportunity to serve your energy needs. If we can do anything to improve our service to you, please let us know.