Large nationwide electricity generation changes take a long time. Power plants don’t typically last a few years — they last decades. So, even if there are dramatic changes in new power plant development (as there are in the US), there’s such a massive fleet of existing power plants that it takes a while for the new trends to influence electricity generation to a notable extent.
With that in mind, it’s especially impressive to see that electricity from coal power plants has declined from 26.9% of US electricity generation in the first 7 months of 2018 to 17.7% of US electricity in the first 7 months of 2020. Furthermore, that’s down from 33% in 2015, 39% in 2014, 45% in 2010, and 50% in 2005.
As you can see, coal’s collapse has come as natural gas and renewables have risen as US electricity generation sources. Natural gas had the biggest rise over this time period, climbing from 33.7% of US electricity generation to 40.1%. Renewables rose from 18.7% to 21.2%.
Solar energy grew from 2.3% in the first 7 months of 2018 to 2.7% in the first 7 months of 2019 to 3.4% in the first 7 months of 2020.
Wind energy grew from 6.8% in the first 7 months of 2018 to 7.3% in the first 7 months of 2019 to 8.5% in the first 7 months of 2020.
Progress is being made, but it still feels painfully and deadly slow. We are seeing some of the horrendous effects of global warming already, but they will get so much worse as we continue burning fossil fuels and expanding the greenhouse blanket across our atmosphere. If you look at the following set of interactive charts, you can see how diminutive solar PV and, to some extent, wind look in contrast to natural gas and even coal. So much dirty electricity generation capacity still needs to be shut down in order to protect people from severe health problems and premature death.
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