Coal Power Plant Use Of Coal In US Fell 29% In 2015 (Compared To Peak Use In 2007)

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Coal use for electricity generation in the US fell by 29% in 2015, as compared to peak use in 2007, according to a new report from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). To put that in different terms, 1,045 million short tons of coal were used to generate electricity in the US in 2007, and “just” 739 million short tons were used for that purpose in 2015.

Coal Use Decline USA

The report noted that the factors that led to this drop appear to be: flat or near-flat electricity sales growth in the US, and the increasing economic attractiveness of alternatives to coal (natural gas, wind energy, solar energy, etc.).

Think Progress provides more:

This chart shows exactly how much steam coal each state consumed in 2007, and within each bar there is a smaller blue bar which shows its current usage. The only outliers are Nebraska and Alaska, which saw 18% and 134% increases in coal use compared to 2007. Alaska in particular uses so little coal compared to other states that any swing would make an impact in a comparison like this. California and many New England states have nearly zeroed out their coal use, and Vermont and Rhode Island aren’t even on the chart because they had no coal plants in 2007 and added none since then.

Other states dropped anywhere from 2% (Wyoming) to 96% (California). While that seems predictable, with Wyoming being a huge coal state and California being, well, California, the real action is apparent in states that have depended on coal for more of their energy needs. Ohio’s drop of 49% is hugely significant given how large an aggregate drop it actually represented. Texas’ 16% drop may be a smaller number, but as the largest coal consumer in the country, it represents a lot of coal not being burned into the atmosphere.

Coal Use by State Decline

Of course, much of this decrease in coal consumption was accompanied by a substantial increase in natural gas consumption — which was accompanied by widespread use of hydraulic fracturing as a means of extraction, and, unavoidably, by methane leaks as well.

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

CleanTechnica Holiday Wish Book

Holiday Wish Book Cover

Click to download.

Our Latest EVObsession Video

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.

James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

James Ayre has 4830 posts and counting. See all posts by James Ayre

31 thoughts on “Coal Power Plant Use Of Coal In US Fell 29% In 2015 (Compared To Peak Use In 2007)

  • Nice job Nebraska. You have all that wind and very few turbines. Instead of taking advantage of selling clean energy to multiple nearby states, your politicians have chosen to poison the air you breathe.

    • Hey, gotta poison the babies with neurotoxins, otherwise they’ll be too smart to vote for those politicians. (Only half kidding — I really do believe that lead poisoning is the cause of many of these “politicians” getting elected)

      • Unfortunately, willful stupidity in large numbers seems to exist all around the world. Austria just almost elected a neo-Nazi.

      • Bad education is the reason for that. Educate people and politicians like that won’t be elected.

        • Education helps a bit, but the other big thing is safer, more egalitarian society, and increase in living standards of the bottom quarter; see Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden esp). Of course they also have quite high education, but liberalism breeds from safety; when people feel safe (much more important than factual safety!), they become more trusting, liberal; this has been found in research after research.
          Fear, feeling of unsafety leads to cognitive blocks, conservativism, clinging to fundamentalist religion.

          • Higher education also leads to higher living standards and less fear of all refugees being terrorists and rapists for example.
            So while it certainly isn’t the only reason, I still think that education is one of the most important factors.

        • The same party that supported Lomborg and savage the wind power industry is back in power in Denmark so no hope for education as a means to protect nations against stupid politicians.

          • I don’t know anything about danish politics so I really don’t know the reason of people voting for that party, but you can’t use that one example to debunk that correlation.

            I see that phenomenon pretty much every where I look. In Austria most of the people with Matura voted for the green party. And if you look at Universities you will find most of the people very liberal, no matter if you look at the US or Europe. The higher you’re educated the higher is your chance of being a liberal person, accepting refugees, acknowledging climate change and so on.

    • Don’t forget Alaska up 134%!!!!

    • Nebraska has great wind resources, but so do it’s neighbors. No isea why they would pay extra for coal.

  • If your in an index fund, you need to MOVE Out to ETF SPYX.
    And S&P index fund without carbon stocks. The next 12 years are going to be a carbon bloodbath.

    • The 97% of Shell shareholders that voted against adopting a renewable-only policy deserve to lose their shirts.

      • And ExxonMobil shareholders just voted against disclosing climate risks to the business, again.

        It was a slightly closer vote than last year, so I guess that counts as progress.

        • I hope they look in their rearview mirror, and see the headlights of electric cars and busses catching up to them “maximum plaid”.

      • So what % were proxy votes controlled by the board. Bet it was a large amount for both companies.

  • And fossil fuels in total have been dropping. Renewables are grabbing market share away from them…


    • I agree, and yet my little bitty solar/wind portfolio has taken a horrible beating this year. Go figure.

  • The methane leaks from fracked natural gas were not “unavoidable”. They mostly came from carelessness and greed. You would still get some if everybody followed best practices, but that is very far from current reality.

    • Regulate.


      Hopefully those things are soon-coming.

      • For sure. EIA released data yesterday. Gas is the biggest by far, and we are adding gas and renewables, and 1 nuke, and taking down coal. Point being, that increasing gas production, means increasing leakage if we don’t get better at it.

        • We substituting NG for coal. But overall fossil fuel use for electricity is going down.

          We should see a big jump at the end of 2016 in the graph below. Lots of coal plants closing and few new gas plants being built.


      • Btw, you can’t regulate and enforce with the real power distributed like this (judicature and executive lack the power).

        • I don’t understand your comment.

          There are new EPA regulations which deal with methane leaks. These will likely be challenged in court but it will be hard to make a case for not letting them go into effect. The cost to the industry of preventing leaks is calculated to be less than the additional revenue received by selling the gas which would otherwise be lost.

          You have to prove harm and in this case there is no apparent harm.

          The risk is that Trump wins in November and directs the EPA to shut down.

  • Note the amazing correlation of the heavy coal states with the wind states. Wind is perhaps still the cheapest renewable energy and its 24 hour production profile makes it easy to substitute much of the load. Texas is a perfect example.

  • The EIA Electricity Monthly was released today. Here’s the percentage of US electricity generated with coal by month, January 2014 (41.6%) through March 2016 (23.8%).

    The red line is the percentage of coal-electricity the EIA projects for 2040.


    • Ah, the EIA. I know it’s sad and wrong, but they make me laugh.

      • The folks doing the predictions have access to the data that their agency collects. And they have the map showing how many more coal plants are scheduled to close down in this year.

        It’s like they are math challenged….


        • I don’t think that they’re mathematically challenged. They are just ruthless, anti-social and probably lack conscience and in our current social environment those are dominant treats that help you get ahead..

        • Baghdad Bob comes to mind.

        • “It’s like they are math challenged….”

          Or reality challenged.

Comments are closed.