Culture 3 min read

Historic First: Renewables in the U.S Now Bigger Than Coal



The golden days of coal as a major source of energy and economic growth are over.

As the trend of divestment from fossil fuels gets stronger over time, spending on new coal projects is experiencing a sharp decline due to many banks and investors exiting the industry.

Some historically coal-reliant economies, like Australia and Germany, are moving away from coal.

In the United States, President Donald Trump has vowed to make the American coal mining industry great again. But as coal-dependent communities are concerned, this policy could economically backfire.

Pushed by political agenda or pure economic reasons, the U.S. government has to rethink its stance on coal in particular and fossil fuels in general — especially now that it has reached the tipping point in its transition to clean energy.

The United States can become green again and lead the world to set the foundations of a global low-carbon economy.

U.S. Renewables Trump Coal Power

Despite politicians working for extending coal’s life and the White House’s efforts to revive the American coal industry, renewables are chipping away at coal’s economic viability as they continue their rise.

As the coal industry is facing increasing scrutiny on its environmental footprint in the U.S., a new analysis indicates that the American energy mix is getting greener and increases doubt on coal power.

During April, and for the first time ever, American renewable sources outproduced coal electricity, and the trend is expected to continue in the coming years.

Per the non-profit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), coal power took a backseat to renewables in the U.S in April, which is likely to continue in May and episodically through 2019 and 2020.

Basing its analysis on data published by the Energy Information Administration, IEEFA says that solar, wind, biomass, hydro, and geothermal combined generate “2,322 and 2,271 thousand megawatt-hours (MWh/day) per day in April and May, respectively. This would top coal’s expected output of 1,997 and 2,239 thousand MWh/day during the same two months.”

Read More: New Study Shows That Coal is on the Way Out

As this is great news for renewables in the U.S. and the world, it is bad news for the American coal-fired power plants under growing environmental and economic pressures.

It seems that no carbon-capture tech would save coal and no political move would sabotage the ascent of renewables.

Although this is no less than a landmark moment in the American energy industry, it should be noted that there’s a seasonal factor at play.

April is in spring, a season where there’s the least need for turning on either the air conditioning or the heating, like during fall, and many coal-fired power plants take this lower-demand time of the year to go offline temporarily and prep for the higher demand periods of summer and winter.

This, however, is just a minor side note in the rise of renewables in the U.S. It seems that, for now, the future of American energy will be green, not black.

Read More: Milestone: Australia Chooses Climate Change Over Coal

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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