America’s Coal Usage has Dropped 30% in the Last 5 Years

The decline in coal power in the U.S. has been accelerating in recent years. While power producers have slowly been phasing it out since the late 90s, coal usage has seen a huge drop since 2014.

According to the Department of Energy, the amount of power generated by coal has dropped just a bit over 30% in the last five years. In the same timeframe, total power production increased about 2%.

Coal power plants in the United States have been shutting down at a lightning pace since 2011. More have shut down (271) than remain open (242) in the last eight years. Most of the coal-based power plants which have shut down earlier in the decade have been relatively smaller operations, with some of them having been converted to natural gas. What we are starting to see now are large coal plants going offline. Navajo Generating Station in Page, AZ is among the largest coal plants ever to announce a shutdown.

While natural gas production has been increasing, renewables continue to claim market share. Nuclear power included, more power is derived from renewable energy (1549 terawatt hours) than from either natural gas (1501 terawatt hours) or coal (1097 terawatt hours).

If the current trend continues, coal power will contribute less than 1000 terawatt hours to the U.S. electrical grid in late 2020. This would be the first time since the advent of the automobile that coal would be responsible for producing less than 25% of the nation’s electrical power.

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