Coal as a fuel to make electricity continues to decline. The star is renewable energy. For 2020, renewables beat coal as a power generation fuel, for the first time.

The US Energy Information Agency says, “In 2020, U.S. electricity generation from coal in all sectors declined 20% from 2019, while renewables, including small-scale solar, increased 9%. Wind, currently the most prevalent source of renewable electricity in the United States, grew 14% in 2020 from 2019. Utility-scale solar generation (from projects greater than 1 megawatt) increased 26%, and small-scale solar, such as grid-connected rooftop solar panels, increased 19%.”

Check the chart:

It is a mighty dramatic drop in coal. Natural gas went up. Emissions drop when a high-emission power facility gets replaced with a lower emission resource.

I saw this posting (right) that shows the change in a dramatic way. The Tennessee Valley Authority imploded an old coal plant in its quest to lower emissions. Check the video.

“In 2005, TVA generated 57 percent of its electricity from coal. Since 2012, TVA has retired six coal plants, which reduced the amount of energy produced by coal to about 14 percent. The utility says it could retire its entire coal fleet by 2035 – pending necessary approvals.”

The coal trend, like many trends, has its ups and downs. “We expect coal-fired electricity generation to increase in the United States during 2021 as natural gas prices continue to rise and as coal becomes more economically competitive,” says EIA. “Based on forecasts in our Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), we expect coal-fired electricity generation in all sectors in 2021 to increase 18% from 2020 levels before falling 2% in 2022. We expect U.S. renewable generation across all sectors to increase 7% in 2021 and 10% in 2022. As a result, we forecast coal will be the second-most prevalent electricity source in 2021, and renewables will be the second-most prevalent source in 2022.”

If the goal is to reduce emissions, the EIA had this bad news: “We expect nuclear electric power to decline 2% in 2021 and 3% in 2022 as operators retire several generators.”

Nuclear power produces massive carbon-free power. Bad move to let that generation go.


We wrote about coal’s slide in 2019, too.