The end of May brought some surprising news for the renewable energy industry. Of course, this news is in reference to renewable energy sources surpassing coal consumption in 2019 for the first time since before 1885, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
This development is the result of expanded renewable energy options like wind and solar along with the steady decline in the amount of coal being used for the generation of electricity.
Even in 2018, coal consumption dropped a staggering 15%. Prior to coal, wood had been the primary source of energy in the United States until coal surpassed it in the mid 1800s.
The EIA uses a common unit of heat called British thermal units (Btu) “to compare different types of energy that are reported in different physical units (barrels, cubic feet, tons, kilowatt hours)…EIA uses a fossil fuel equivalence to calculate electricity consumption of noncombustible renewables such as wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal” as seen in the chart below.
U.S. coal consumption has been declining for six years in a row. The adoption of wind and solar power generation is the biggest contributors to this decline. Coal generated electricity in 2019 hit its lowest level in the last 42 years.
Another interesting statistic from the EIA points out how electricity generation in 2019 from wind was greater than hydro for the first time ever. And not only that, but wind has become the most used source of renewable energy for electricity in the U.S. on an annual basis.
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