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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

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.

According to the EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, coal-fired power plants only accounted for 20 percent of total U.S. electricity generation in April, while renewables made up 24 percent. It’s the first time on record that renewable energy generated more than coal on a monthly basis. The trend is expected to continue in May, with coal accounting for 21 percent and renewables capturing 22 percent. Natural gas is the largest source of electricity in the U.S. at this point, taking home 35 percent in April and expected to account for 36 percent in May.

(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…



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