Renewable energy in the US surpassed coal for first time in more than a century

A long time ago, back in 2019, energy from renewable sources exceeded coal consumption in the United States — for the first time in any current human’s lifetime.

EIA’s earliest energy estimates start in 1635.

Not since 1885, when coal replaced wood, have renewables taken the lead. This is due to the strong growth of wind and solar as well as the continued decline in the amount of coal used for electricity generation, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Energy Review.

This trend will continue. Utilities have indicated their intention to shutter 13 coal plants in 2020, according to E&E News. Two others will be transitioned to natural gas.

U.S. coal and renewable energy consumption

U.S. coal consumption is at its lowest level since 1964. Natural gas usage for electricity has displaced much of the electricity generation from now-closed coal plants.

U.S. coal and renewable energy consumption by source

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

“Coal-fired power generation has fallen below renewable energy for the first time in more than 130 years – when wood was the primary source of energy in the United States,” Benjamin Nelson, Moody’s VP-senior credit officer and lead coal analyst told pv magazine.”We expect ongoing secular decline in the demand for coal, accelerated by the economic fallout from the global outbreaks of Covid-19, will persist in the early 2020s.”

Quoted in E&E News, Joe Daniel, an analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists said, “Right now, the economics of burning coal just don’t make sense.”

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