According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy sources have generated more electricity than coal over the last 40 days. The data shows that wind, solar, and hydroelectricity have surpassed coal since March 25 this year. The previous record was set in April of last year, with renewable energy topping coal for 9 consecutive days. The decline in coal this year is partially due to less demand for electricity during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is an important step forward in the battle for clean energy over dirty power, especially coal. For the first time, more solar and other renewable energy has been used in this country over coal for 40 days. If we can do this now, we should be able to do this after the pandemic is over. We must move forward with energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other ways to get us to a carbon-free future,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “This is even more important given the health impacts of coal and the link between coronavirus risk and air pollution.”
Last week, a new report from the International Energy Agency found that global emissions were 5% lower in the first quarter of 2020 than in 2019. The report found that emissions in the U.S. declined by 9% during that period. According to the projections, oil demand could drop 9% and coal demand 8% by the end of the year.
“The coronavirus outbreak has not only dropped coal demand, but we have also seen a decline in greenhouse gases. Over the past few months, our air has gotten cleaner. This will help people with asthma and respiratory problems. It is even more important because a recent Harvard study found that coronavirus risk is linked to air pollution exposure. We have seen a 30% drop in pollution since the start of the health emergency, and this could be the future if we keep moving toward renewable energy and energy efficiency,” said Tittel. “We can’t let our greenhouse gas emissions rise again once the health emergency is over.”
According to a new nationwide Harvard study, Coronavirus patients in areas that had high levels of air pollution before the pandemic are more likely to die from the infection than patients in cleaner parts of the country. Harvard University analyzed 3,080 counties in the United States and found that higher levels of the tiny, dangerous particles in the air, known as PM 2.5 were associated with higher death rates from the disease.
“We are currently dealing with the public health emergency, but we are also facing the longer-term climate emergency. Ramping up renewable energy is especially important in New Jersey because we are one of the most vulnerable states in the country to climate change. Renewable energy like wind and solar is becoming cheaper and more effective each year, and energy efficiency is even cheaper still. Large-scale solar is already being built in places like Arizona,” said Tittel. “Investing in renewable energy will create jobs and protect our environment while reducing air pollution and health costs.”
Climate change is happening and happening even faster. UN Climate Report warns of a global tipping point by 2030 so it is even more important to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as we can. Our state has the ability to regulate greenhouse gasses but has yet to do so.
“We need to make sure we take extreme actions to plan for climate change and sea-level rise, not just in New Jersey but nationally. This report shows that it is possible to move away from coal now. We need to work hard to make sure we continue moving forward with renewable energy even after the health emergency is over. We need to move toward 100% renewable and zero-carbon by 2050. For the health of the planet, the public, and our economy, our nation must continue to transition to a clean energy future,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Renewable energy is getting cheaper and more efficient. we can clearly see the path to get to 100% renewable across the country. We need to make sure this continues after the health crisis has passed.”