Change in the energy sector continues, if not actually accelerating. The latest evidence is the collapse of what had been the kingpin of power – coal.

It’s happening all over the world, too. “Each market is different, but the trends in markets as diverse as the U.K., Spain, Australia and Texas all show profound changes in what is a very short period of time,” says a Bloomberg News analyst.

Here are some examples.

The United Kingdom reports that coal is almost gone as a fuel. Coal was 75% of power generation fuel in 1990. It is barely above two percent now. 2019 was the cleanest year on record for Britain as, for the first time, the amount of zero carbon power outstripped that from fossil fuels for a full twelve months. That according to U.K. power company.

In Spain, the report says coal “…dropped to its lowest levels since the country’s grid operator began keeping records in 1990. At less than 5% of total generation in 2019, Spain’s coal sector isn’t quite as shrunken as it is in the U.K., but it’s also 85.6% less than it was in 2002.”

In Australia coal is lower than rooftop solar and wind generation.

In the U.S., two big trends crossed in the first half of 2019 (left). “U.S. monthly electricity generation from renewable sources exceeded coal-fired generation for the first time based on data in EIA’s Electric Power Monthly. Renewable sources provided 23% of total electricity generation to coal’s 20%.”

U.S. coal power capacity topped-out about 317,000 MW in 2011.”U.S. power companies expect to retire or convert from coal to gas over 13,800 megawatts (MW) of coal-fired plants in 2019 after shutting over 13,300 MW in 2018.The number of megawatts retired in 2018 was the second highest in a year.” (Source)

U.S. coal production decreased 2.4% year over year. (Source)

In the Southeast:

  • Electricity gener- ation at South Carolina’s natural gas power plants exceeded the state’s coal-fired generation in 2018 for the first time. (Source)
  • Check coal versus gas in NC (Right) (Source)
  • Duke Energy is accelerating some coal plant closures.
  • Georgia Power [coal] Plant Hammond was officially decommissioned in July 2019 (Source)
  • “Alabama Power has reduced the number of coal-fired units from 23 to 10.” (Source)

When a significant and dependable player in the energy industry like coal makes such a huge move in a short period of time, something big is happening. The decline of coal is one major indicator that change in the energy industry is huge.


Feature image: Implosion brings down the last Duke Energy coal plant in Eastern N.C. in 2016. (Source – Duke Energy)