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Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is an independent journalist, covering oil and gas, energy and environmental policy, and international politics. He is based in Portland, Oregon. 

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U.S. Renewable Energy Just Set An Historic Record

Solar

In a historic first, renewable energy may have generated more electricity than coal in the entire U.S. for the month of April.

Coal has long been the backbone of the U.S. electric grid. In the 2000s, coal accounted for more than half of electricity generation. But while King Coal was not dethroned overnight, its demise has been years in the making.

(Click to enlarge)

Coal-fired generation ebbs and flows depending on prices and seasonal demand, so it will rebound here and there in the months ahead. Coal tends to suffer the most during soft periods of demand in spring and fall, while seeing higher demand in summer and winter. But the trend is clear: Coal is in terminal decline.

As renewable energy continues to scale up and coal-fired power plants continue to shut down, renewables will top coal on a monthly basis more frequently. As the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) notes, the same thing occurred when natural gas overtook coal, which only occurred a few years ago. Gas surpassed coal on a monthly basis for the first time in April 2015, not coincidentally after the end of winter demand. Coal rebounded somewhat from there, but in the years ahead their fortunes diverged sharply, with the most pronounced gulf between the…





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