Renewable energy consumption surpassed coal for the first time in 2019

Published on June 08, 2020 by Dave Kovaleski

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U.S. annual energy consumption from renewable sources exceeded coal consumption in 2019, marking the first time this has happened, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

This shift reflects the continued decline in the use of coal used for electricity generation and the growth of renewable energy, mostly from wind and solar. Coal consumption in the United States decreased by nearly 15 percent in 2019 compared to the previous year, while renewable energy consumption grew by 1 percent.

In 2019, U.S. coal consumption decreased for the sixth consecutive year to 11.3 quadrillion Btu. That is the lowest level since 1964. Electricity generation from coal fell to its lowest level in 42 years. Natural gas consumption has increased significantly in recent years, replacing much of the electricity generation from retired coal plants.

Total renewable energy consumption grew for the fourth year in a row to a record-high 11.5 quadrillion Btu in 2019. Over the last five years, the gains are almost entirely attributable to the use of wind and solar in the electric power sector. In 2019, electricity generation from wind surpassed hydro for the first time and is now the most-used source of renewable energy for electricity generation. About 56 percent of commercially delivered U.S. renewable energy is used in the electric power sector, mostly from wind and hydroelectric power. It is also consumed in the industrial (22 percent), transportation (12 percent), residential (7 percent), and commercial (2 percent) sectors.