The US consumed more renewable energy than coal last year for the first time in more than 135 years, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
The figures show renewable energy, such as solar and wind, is continuing to boom across the nation, while America’s coal consumption collapsed by another 15% to its lowest level since 1964.
The milestone, which was announced on Thursday, May 28, demonstrates the country’s dramatic shift away from coal despite Donald Trump’s attempts to prop up the industry – with the president even going so far as to nominate a former coal lobbyist to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Despite this, and despite the fact Trump looks set to wipe out years of environmental progress with his administration so far repealing or weakening almost 100 environmental regulations, these figures represent the sixth-straight year of declines for coal consumption.
Not only that, but consumption of renewable energy in the United States hit a record high last year – the fourth-straight year of growth, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Dennis Wamsted, research analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said, as per :
We are moving away from coal steadily, consistently and quickly. The Trump administration has been completely unable to turn around the market transition to cleaner and cheaper renewable energy.
For years, coal has played a dominant role in America’s energy consumption, although in recent years it has faced competition from renewable sources like wind energy, solar power, hydropower and geothermal energy.
Wind energy in particular has been growing quickly, with power generation from wind last year surpassing hydropower for the first time. In fact, wind is now the most popular form of renewable power generation in the US.
While this is obviously a step in the right direction, it’s important to note that these EIA figures measure only consumption, not power generation. In terms of the latter, coal still leads renewables.
That’s not to say renewable energy won’t soon take the lead though; the first time the US generated more electricity from renewables than coal was in April 2019, and it is likely to happen on an annual basis for the first time in 2020 – despite the disruption caused by the ongoing health crisis.
‘People want renewables. Corporations are asking for it,’ Wamstead said. ‘They are being pushed by consumers.’ And it’s true; power companies are rapidly shutting down coal-fired power plants in favour of natural gas and renewable energy under pressure from both the public and shareholders.
Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.