A long time ago, back in 2019, energy from renewable sources exceeded coal consumption in the United States — for the first time in any current human’s lifetime.
EIA’s earliest energy estimates start in 1635.
Not since 1885, when coal replaced wood, have renewables taken the lead. This is due to the strong growth of wind and solar as well as the continued decline in the amount of coal used for electricity generation, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Energy Review.
This trend will continue. Utilities have indicated their intention to shutter 13 coal plants in 2020, according to E&E News. Two others will be transitioned to natural gas.
U.S. coal consumption is at its lowest level since 1964. Natural gas usage for electricity has displaced much of the electricity generation from now-closed coal plants.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review
“Coal-fired power generation has fallen below renewable energy for the first time in more than 130 years – when wood was the primary source of energy in the United States,” Benjamin Nelson, Moody’s VP-senior credit officer and lead coal analyst told pv magazine.”We expect ongoing secular decline in the demand for coal, accelerated by the economic fallout from the global outbreaks of Covid-19, will persist in the early 2020s.”
Quoted in E&E News, Joe Daniel, an analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists said, “Right now, the economics of burning coal just don’t make sense.”
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Analysts miss the firewood equation by billions tons of carbon! Firewood is the most energy intensive fuel to produce. Nobody is exactly cutting trees with manual hands.. We are doing it with chainsaws, log splittings, haulers, etc.. It sells for $300 a cord which is equivalent to about 2 tons of coal which shows how much energy is being spent to produce firewood. We are better off switching to gas stoves away from wood stoves.. Firewood is not REALLY RENEWABLE AT ALL! I urge you to stop fantasy fact … about firewood as renewable.. Quite a few cut down own trees in their own backyards , of course .. The bulk of firewood are produced with way too much fossil energy.. Analysts only measure the emissions coming of firewood without looking at the energy being used to produce them from the start. Firewood smoke is the most dangerous of all above all other fuels EVEN COAL! Coal powerplants are heavily controlled for emissions and you cannot compare coal to firewood which lacks emission controls.. Those younger generations are so clueless about the progress being made to improve coal emission controls since 1970’s .. those younger generations are raised in child safety seats and are living in unrealistic environments mentally|!!
Everyone is holding on obsolete firewood because they still consider fireplaces as a selling point in housing… I had torn mine down long ago,, I walled it over.. I also tore down the entire chiimney made of brick with a log used to bam bricks off its weak masonry.. I repurposed the bricks into a walking path .. Good riddance , firewood!
That graph is about to go black diamond and scream down another 30 to 35% in 2020. By the end of the year we should be around 7.5 quads of coal in the US. The EU isn’t all that far behind.
Hey Eric… You should do an article that puts the growth of solar over the last 15ish years into perspective. Maybe it’s arbitrary but I tend to think of 2004 as the start of the modern era of solar. This was the first year PV installed 1 GW in a year. It’s amazing to think the world regularly installs close to 2 GW of PV a week nowadays. In 2004 solar technologies generated 2.6 TWh of electricity. We’re expecting approximately 865 TWh in 2020. For comparison coal use grew by about 3,000 TWh and wind grew by about 1,350 TWh between 2004 and 2020. It looks like 2020 is similarly turning out to be an inflection year for coal. This is likely to be the first year wind and solar add more new electricity than coal worldwide. The milestones for solar stacked up quickly after 2004 and continue to this day. It’s looking like the death markers for coal are likely to stack up quickly in the coming years.
Jigar often calls RE the largest wealth creation opportunity in the the world. I tend to agree but yesterday I was thinking… Hmmm… it’s probably also one of the largest if not the largest wealth destruction engines of our time. RE is to coal what Amazon is to JC Penny.
Glad you’re posting here. I’ll work that graph.
Kind of goes back to the historical fight between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, A.C. vs D.C. as the power source for the nation. 120 years ago A.C. a centralized top heavy fueled generation resource or large scale hydro generation, trickling down the product use chain like a pyramid to the residential ratepayers at the bottom, was probably the best business model at the time. As solar PV panels costing $5.50/watt retail in 2005 fall to $1.35 to $0.80/watt today, we are allowed to over design a solar PV system for one’s home or business that could be 30 years or more of reliable operation. You could take into account panel dusting, LID, temperature effects and long term “connection losses”. When you design, put in 25% more panels than calculated to gain that robust solar PV system. Add 6 to 8 more solar PV panels for better energy generation for decades.
As solar PV technologies are introduced the “average” solar PV efficiency has increased from 17% to 18.5% just 15 years ago, to an average of 20% all the way up to 24% efficiency today. As R&D moves the industry towards tandem solar PV cells, we may be looking at hybrid crystalline/perovskite cells in the 30% to 40% efficiency range. Once one gets above 20% for locally generated energy, the distributed solar PV system on one’s roof is more efficient than the grid and its intrinsic heat loss, transformer step losses.
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