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Renewable Energy in the US Overtakes Coal

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 5 years ago
  • Author: Steve Walia

For the first time in American history, renewable power generation overtook coal generation in April of this year. The achievement was confirmed by the US Energy Information Administration.

23% of America's total power generation was from renewable power sources. This compared to 20% of coal-fired power. EIA figures confirmed that renewable power exceeded coal because less energy overall is typically used in spring and because April represents the main month for hydroelectricity.

Wind energy also hit a new record high, producing 30.2 MWh of clean energy in April.

However, the EPA has said that it expects coal to continue to overtake renewable power generation for the rest of this year and into 2020. Instead, it points to April's achievement as a sign of the longer-term future as American coal is in clear decline from its peak production rate ten years ago. 

Since 2015, coal-fired capacity of 47GW has been retired. A further 4.1 GW of coal-fuelled capacity will go offline this year. This means that clean and green renewable energy sources will be in pole position again in future, and already they are expected to exceed nuclear energy generation capacity by next year.

As coal production facilities go offline, a number of coal firms have gone bankrupt. More than a thousand workers were made redundant in West Virginia this month when Blackjewel LLC and Revelation Energy LLC went bust.

However, the demand for skilled jobs in the renewable industries is booming, fuelled by falling technology costs and rising consumer demand. For example, solar PV on a utility scale has fallen to just $1-2 per Kilowatts, from $5-$6. This five-fold price decrease happened between 2010 and 2017. With the only constraint to growth being technology rather than underlying resource availability, further innovations will further push this adoption.