Carbon dioxide emissions will slip to the lowest since 1994 as U.S. utilities shift away from coal in favor of solar, wind and natural gas.
The power grid will add a record amount of solar energy as coal plants idle in response to cheap gas and tighter environmental regulations, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance released Thursday. As a result of the shift, emissions blamed for global warming from power generation will fall 15 percent below 2005 levels.
Developers will install 9.1 gigawatts of solar panels and 8.9 gigawatts of wind turbines this year, helping to replace the 23 gigawatts from coal plants that are expected to close. The rest will come from gas, which power producers will burn at a record rate.
“In 2015, we’ll take a giant, permanent step toward decarbonizing our entire fleet of power plants,” William Nelson, head of North American analysis at BNEF, said in a statement.
The trend will continue over the next four years at a slower pace than in 2015 as incentives for wind and solar energy decline, he said. U.S. President Barack Obama in November pledged to cut emissions by at least 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.