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EIA: Beleagured Coal Loses More Power Generation Market Share

Consumption of coal used for electricity generation in the U.S. electric power sector fell 29 percent from its peak of 1,045 million short tons in 2007 to an estimated 739 in 2015, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a press release.

The record lows are explained by abundant natural gas, cheap wind and solar energy and state efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

"The price and availability of fuels other than coal have had a major effect on coal consumption since 2007," the administration said. "Increased supply of natural gas and a resulting natural gas price decline spurred increases in natural gas-fired power generation in several states, generally at the expense of coal-fired generation."

Related: Oil Prices Edge Lower As OPEC Nears Record Output

Except for Nebraska and Alaska, coal use tumbled in every state. The biggest declines occurred in Ohio and Pennsylvania, thanks to booming natural gas development from the Utica and Marcellus shale formations, which resulted in drops of 49 and 44 percent in coal consumption, respectively.

In 2015, coal concerned 37.9 percent of electric power generation while gas made up 27.2 percent and renewables 14.1 percent. That figure began dropping with coal-fired plants being closed down as a result of implementation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and falling gas prices.

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Prior to 2015, coal was the dominant natural resource used in the production of power. Currently, in the United States, 97 percent of all steam coal is used to generate electricity. There was almost zero growth in electricity sales in most states between 2007 and 2015.

The price and availability of fuels other than coal have had a major effect on coal consumption since 2007. Increased supply of natural gas and a resulting natural gas price decline spurred increases in natural gas-fired power generation in several states, generally at the expense of coal-fired generation.

By James Burgess of Oilprice.com

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