Slicing and re-slicing a limited pie
There’s a little-noticed and remarkable fact about American energy use that helps explain some of the bitter policy fights we’re seeing right now: The United States actually uses less electricity today than it did back in 2007, even as the population keeps growing.
There are a few reasons for that: American homes have gotten far more energy-efficient with the spread of LED light bulbs and energy-saving appliances. And industrial electricity use fell significantly after the financial crisis and hasn’t fully rebounded.
Why does this matter? If electricity consumption is flat, then all the different sources of energy we use — coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind — are locked in zero-sum competition with one another. If a new natural gas plant or wind farm goes up, something else has to get pushed off the grid.
That’s exactly what we’ve seen. The rise of fracking has made natural gas incredibly cheap. Solar and wind, already subsidized by Congress, have seen their costs drop dramatically. As a result, coal and nuclear power are losing market share fast.
Same in Canada? Does it matter in B.C.?