For the past decade, Resource Media’s diverse work on energy issues has provided us with a front row seat to one of the most important stories of our time. Hardly a day a goes by where we don’t hear or read another story about the nation’s shift away from coal and the steady rise of renewables in its place.
These developments weave a narrative that we want to share far and wide as communicators. Trying to keep up with the dizzying pace of change has been difficult, though. Good intentions to bookmark and save these stories have been ambushed by distractions, and we often have found ourselves wondering how to quickly put our hands on the stories, quotes or graphs we saw a month ago, when we needed them on a moment’s notice to share with a partner or for a pitch, talking points, news release or blog.
Conversations with coal and clean energy communicators all over the country told us we were not alone in this. Seeing a need for an easy-to-use resource to track some of the most notable developments on coal and clean energy, Resource Media launched the Energy Trend Tracker last month.
Housed on Resource Media’s website and presented in an easy-to-use format, the Tracker is updated with the latest developments that help tell the story of the inexorable march of clean energy replacing coal. It includes stories, graphics, charts, images and quotes from movers and shakers in the energy world.
The page is NOT designed as a comprehensive, all-inclusive clearinghouse. We won’t post something on every new wind and solar project or every development on coal. The Tracker is more akin to a ‘best of’ list, where we update the page when there are noteworthy new developments to share, not on a set schedule.
As with any good communications tool, audience is a key part of the Tracker’s usefulness. In addition to the website, we are sharing the content through other channels. To the extent we can whittle these often complex stories down to 140 characters or less, we’ve created a companion Twitter handle, @RMEnergyTracker, and we also make use of our networks by sharing through listservs and email lists.
The good news is there’s lots to tell. Consider some of the more notable developments on the clean energy front from just this year alone:
- According to data from the U.S. Department of Energy, electricity prices have actually dropped in the top 11 states for wind power over the past five years, while those in other states have risen by 7.8%.
- In Minnesota, a plan to increase the state’s solar capacity by seven-fold was deemed a better deal for consumers than a proposal to expand natural gas.
- Jobs in the solar sector are growing at a rate 10 times faster than the national average, with much of that driven by businesses and homeowners turning to solar to save money.
- A utility in Detroit is cutting rates by 6.5 percent for residential customers this year because of cost savings from wind power.
The news is not nearly as bright on the coal side of the equation, where the downward trend in coal from 2013 shows no signs of letting up:
- Detailed financial analyses of at least three coal-burning plants paint a bleak picture for the utilities operating them. The plants – one in New York, one in Connecticut and one in Montana – are all in deep financial trouble, with the latter valued by analysts for a prospective buyer as at least a $200 million liability.
- A report by the GAO found that coal companies have shortchanged U.S. taxpayers out of at least $200 million, and possibly hundreds of millions more, through uncompetitive bidding on recent sales of coal from public lands.
- States that don’t have their own supplies and that are dependent on coal-burning plant are spending nearly $20 billion every year to import coal from other states and countries.
- And in a highly revealing move, Wall Street expressed its wariness of coal export when Goldman Sachs yanked its money out of coal export investments as analysts pointed to weakening of global demand for coal, especially in China.
If the past year is any indication, we may have our work cut out for us on the Tracker as the frequency of new items to report keeps gaining momentum. Stay tuned as the story continues to unfold.