U.S. Consumed More Renewables Than Coal for First Time in 134 Years

At-a-Glance:

The United States consumed more renewable energy than coal last year, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In 2019, coal consumption fell 15 percent in 2019 compared to the year before, while renewable-energy consumption grew 1 percent. This change reflects a sharp drop in the use of coal as a primary source of electricity, as well as steady growth in wind and solar power due to economic and environmental factors. To learn more, read “U.S. Consumed More Renewables Than Coal for First Time in 134 Years.”

Key Takeaways:

  • In 2019, U.S. coal-energy consumption decreased for the sixth year in a row to 11.3 quadrillion British thermal units, the lowest level since 1964.
    • Coal-fired power generation, which accounts for the majority of the country’s coal demand, fell to its lowest level in 42 years.
  • Last year, total renewable-energy consumption in the country reached a record-high 11.5 quadrillion British thermal units. The category also includes other sources of renewable energy such as geothermal, wood and hydroelectric power.
  • Wind is now the most-used source of renewable power generation in the country, surpassing hydroelectric power in 2019 for the first time ever.

Path to 100% Perspective:

This shift away from coal is likely to continue as more utilities, government entities and companies establish ambitious goals to address the changing climate. Traditional power plants are already struggling to compete with renewable prices, while new clean-energy technologies and policies further accelerate their closure. Now is the time for stakeholders to focus on developing a practical path to 100 percent clean energy that does not involve costly, outdated power plants.

 

Photo: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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