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Renewables Closing In On Coal In The US, Says IEEFA

Renewable energy is gaining rapidly on coal in the US, even beating out coal in some states, according to new figures from the country’s Energy Information Administration.

Analysis conducted by the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis (IEEFA) highlights the recent numbers, which showed the amount of electricity generated by hydro, wind, biomass, and geothermal sources together reached 19.2% of all power generation in the United States during March — the highest percentage since hydropower ruled the country’s power grid decades ago. Non-hydro renewables exceeded 10% of net US generation for the first time as well, with natural gas accounting for 34.1% of generation, and nuclear covering 21.8%.

Meanwhile, coal’s share of the country’s power generation dropped to 23.8%, “an unprecedented low in modern times,” according to IEEFA energy-data analyst Seth Feaster.

2016-06-07_IEEFA-Feaster-Coal-v-renewables-March-2016

As seen above, Texas — which burned 80 million tonnes of coal in 2015, the most of any state in the US — saw renewables beat out coal for the first time. Specifically, coal’s share of electricity generation fell to 13.7%, while wind accounted for 17.2%, and 18% for renewables as a whole. “Where wind leads, solar may well follow,” adds Feaster. “The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s grid, said last week that solar generation in Texas—the biggest electricity market in the U.S.—will soon overtake coal-fired generation.”

The IEEFA also highlighted the continuing declines in coal production and consumption. Accordingly, the US consumed 740 million tonnes of coal for electricity purposes in 2015, according to Tom Sanzillo, IEEFA’s director of finance. However, Platts coal-consumption data year-over-year through May shows that that figure is already down 8% — which, if the trend continues, could see America’s annual consumption drop into the high-600 million range.


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