Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the generation totals calculated by the EIA. The numbers were off by three orders of magnitude: Instead of being in gigawatt-hours (GWh), as the article previously stated, the numbers should have been in terawatt-hours (TWh). We have amended the article to reflect this change.
- Coal generation declined 22.2% from February to March, and year-over-year declines were greater than 33%, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's new Electric Power Monthly report.
- In March, coal generation totaled 72.3 TWh, compared to 92.9 TWh in February and 108.5 TWh in March 2015, according to the EIA's data.
- Fueled by cheap commodity prices, natural gas accounted for more than 103 TWh while solar added 4 TWh.
Coal's share of the United States' generation mix is in a freefall, and now accounts for less than 24% of the total 303 TWh produced in March, according to the EIA.
Renewables continue to gain ground and accounted for more than 19% of production, or about 58 TWh when large-scale hydro is factored in. Gas generation was up slightly from February and represented 34.1% of the energy mix. Nuclear made up about 21%.
In March, EIA said natural gas-fired power generation will top coal this year, marking the first time gas is expected to outpace the resource. Natural gas is expected to fuel a third of the United States' power generation this year, compared to 32% from coal, EIA said.
While new regulations and tight market conditions created challenging conditions for coal in 2015, the fuel still produced the biggest chunk of the United States' power. Coal produced 1,356,057 GWh last year, compared with 1,335,068 GWh for gas.
Even so, low gas prices alongside environmental regulations, are taking a toll on coal-fired generation. Gas prices have remained so cheap that utilities are accelerating their move away from coal, and a recent survey found 92% of power industry executives expect natural gas prices to remain below $3/MMBtu for the remainder of this year.