Jun 27, 2019 - Energy & Environment

U.S. power generation from renewables topped coal for the first time in April

Reproduced from EIA; Chart: Axios Visuals
Reproduced from EIA; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. power generation from renewables was higher than coal in April for the first time, new Energy Information Administration data shows.

Why it matters: It's a milestone that shows the sweeping changes underway in the country's electricity sector.

By the numbers: Renewables provided 23% of total generation in April while coal, which has been steadily losing market share to gas and renewables for years, slipped to 20%.

But, but, but: It's likely to flip back soon. Overall power demand is lowest in the spring and fall when heating and cooling demand are relatively low.

  • "[G]eneration from ... gas, coal, and nuclear is often at its lowest point during these months as some generators undergo maintenance," EIA said.
  • EIA projects that on an annual basis, coal will still generate more than renewables this year and next year.

The bottom line: Absent some unlikely reversal of current trends, April's dynamic will become the norm in the years ahead.

  • The central scenario in EIA's Annual Energy Outlook sees renewables overtaking coal for good on an annual basis in the mid-2020s.
  • Yes, but: Don't forget they've underestimated renewables' growth in the past.

Go deeper: Prices of renewable energy sources plummeted between 2009 and 2017

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