- New data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration illustrates the rapid decline of coal-fired electricity, showing a more-than 13% decline in generation from the fuel in the first half of 2019.
- According to EIA's Electric Power Monthly, utility-scale coal facilities generated 470,131,000 MWh from January through June, compared to 541,676,000 MWh in the same period last year. Solar generation grew 10.5%, while gas grew 6.1% and nuclear generation remained stable.
- EIA expects coal to make up less than a quarter of U.S. generation this year, compared with about half just a decade ago. And Moody's Investors Services has predicted coal-fired power could decline to 11% of U.S. electricity by 2030.
EIA data for the first half of the year shows coal's decline alongside the rise of cleaner fuels. Comparing generation data for only June, the contrast is more stark — a 22.6% decline in coal generation between this year and last.
Coal has been in decline for years, driven by the los cost of natural gas, the declining cost of renewables and environmental controls meant to reduce emissions.
"Almost 13 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity generation capacity has retired this year or is scheduled to retire by the end of 2020, accounting for 5% of the capacity existing at the end of 2018," EIA wrote in its August Short Term Energy Outlook.
Overall, EIA said it expects electric power sector demand for coal to fall by 2% in 2020, compared with an expected decline of 15% in 2019. "However, planned coal plant retirements will continue to put downward pressure on overall electricity demand for the fuel," the agency said.
Generation data for the first half of 2019 comes from Table ES1.B of EIA's Electric Power Monthly.
EIA anticipates utility-scale gas-fired generation will rise from 34% in 2018 to 37% in 2019 and then decline slightly in 2020. The agency predicts renewables, including wind, solar and hydropower, will produce 18% of U.S. electricity in 2019 and 19% in 2020.
Recent weeks have produced more evidence of coal's decline.
Moody's on Aug. 21 downgraded the North American coal sector to a "negative" outlook, citing an expected 3% decline in earnings in the second half of 2019 and a slide in profitability over the next year to 18 months. On the same day, Vistra Energy announced plans to close four coal plants in Illinois totaling more than 2,000 MW, in order to comply with new rule changes. And next week, South Carolina state-owned utility Santee Cooper will unveil a plan to phase out its coal plants.