By Dan Crawford

Crawford is chair of the Sierra Club Roanoke Group. He lives in Roanoke.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline claims to have over 230 miles of pipe laid, but they have a lot of complicated, expensive construction challenges ahead, not to mention the numerous suspended permits and legal challenges due to work that fails to meet numerous regulatory requirements. You’ve heard the old saying; Don’t throw good money after bad. Read on, please...

The Rocky Mountain Institute recently reported that the role of natural gas as a “bridge fuel“ is behind us. The past decade has seen a dramatic reduction in the costs of wind, solar, and storage technologies. At the same time, sophisticated utilities and market operators are increasingly able to procure grid reliability from these non-traditional resources. As a result, leading U.S. utilities are now prioritizing investment in “clean energy portfolios” (CEPs) that can cost-effectively provide the same reliability as traditional gas-fired power plants.

RMI analyzed the economics of every proposed gas-fired power plant in the United States and found that over 90% of proposed gas-fired capacity would be more expensive than an equivalent CEP.

If built, owners of these gas assets will face tens of billions of dollars of stranded assets and uncertain future revenues as clean energy continues to fall in price.

Customers could save $29 billion by investing in CEPs instead of gas plants.

RMI also projects that pipelines expected to ship gas to power plants will be underutilized, knowing growth in US economy-wide demand for natural gas has been driven almost exclusively by the power sector over the past 20 years. In turn, this demand growth has helped drive $115 billion in gas pipeline investment over the same period, and interstate gas pipeline developers have proposed another $30 billion in new investment through 2025 in part to meet the expected increase in demand. However, RMI’s analysis shows that growth in the power sector gas use will stall out in the near future, with dramatic implications for pipelines that rely on revenue from new gas plants.

In the eastern U.S., throughput on new gas pipelines will fall 20%–60% below presumed levels by 2035.

This decline in utilization will lead to rising unit costs for delivered gas, in most cases. Think bigger power bills...

Another new report released Sept. 11 by the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Energy concludes that the era of carbon-intensive energy derived from the burning of fossil fuels is coming to an end, and a cleaner, more reliable energy future based on renewables like wind and solar will be the new normal. The Speed of the Energy Transition offers compelling evidence that stakeholders in the global energy system must urgently prepare for change, because it is coming fast.

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