Renewable electricity generation surpasses coal for first time

Electricity generation from renewable sources exceeded coal-fired generation in April of last year, marking the first that has happened, according to Energy Information Administration’s EIA’s Electric Power Monthly.

Renewable sources, which include hydropower, wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass, provided 23 percent of total electricity generation to 20 percent for coal. The outcome reflects seasonal factors as well as long-term increases in renewable generation and decreases in coal generation.

Wind generation hit a record in the month, producing 30.2 million megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity. Solar generation reached near-record levels in April 2019. Also, hydroelectric generation totaled 25 million MWh in April.

U.S. coal generation has declined over the past decade from its peak. Since 2015, about 47 GW of U.S. coal-fired capacity has retired. During that time, virtually no new coal capacity has come online. EIA expects another 4.1 GW of coal capacity will retire in 2019, accounting for more than half of all anticipated power plant retirements for the year.

EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook expects coal to provide more electricity generation than renewables in the United States for the remaining months of 2019. On an annual average basis, EIA expects that coal will provide more electricity generation in the United States than renewables in both 2019 and 2020. However, EIA expects renewables to surpass nuclear in 2021.

Dave Kovaleski

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