Source: MPR News
North Dakota has lots of coal. It also has strong and consistent winds. It might be the perfect spot to showcase the long-awaited “energy transition” from climate-warming fossil fuels to climate-saving renewables.
Yet that transition has hit a snag. Two counties in the state have enacted drastic restrictions on new wind projects in an attempt to save coal mining jobs, despite protests from landowners who’d like to rent their land to wind energy companies. It’s a sign of how difficult that transition can be for communities that depend on coal for jobs and tax revenue. The economic benefits of wind power, even though substantial, often flow to different people.
“This has been a heart-breaking decision,” said David Saggau, the company’s CEO, speaking by video to the North Dakota Lignite Council, which represents North Dakota’s mining industry. Yet Saggua told the miners that he had little choice, because the coal plant couldn’t compete with cheaper electricity from other sources, mainly natural gas.
It seems that North Dakota is protecting the wrong sort of jobs. The economics of coal are increasingly bad as renewables are cheaper. Energy storage is the last big problem to solve. When that happens there will be no need at all for coal.