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Renewables Overtake Coal In U.S. Electricity Mix For The First Time

Offshore wind

Renewables held a larger share than coal in U.S. monthly electricity generation in April 2019, for the first time ever, reflecting seasonal factors and longer-term trends such as coal’s decline and renewables’ rise, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Wednesday.

In April 2019, when U.S. electricity demand is often at its lowest because of mild temperatures, renewables including hydropower accounted for 23 percent of U.S. electricity generation, while coal-fired generation accounted for 20 percent of the U.S. electricity mix. Electricity generation from coal, natural gas, and nuclear is often lowest in the spring and fall months because of maintenance amid moderate temperatures and low demand for heating and air conditioning, the EIA said, pointing at the seasonal factors for renewables overtaking coal for the first time.

However, there’s an underlying long-term trend in the U.S. electricity mix—coal generation has been dropping from its peak a decade ago. Since 2015, some 47 GW of U.S. coal-fired capacity has retired, while virtually no new coal capacity has come online, the EIA said.

Yet, renewables overtaking coal will be an April blip, as the EIA expects coal to provide more electricity than renewables in the United States for the remaining months of 2019. On an annual average basis, EIA forecasts that coal will provide more electricity generation than renewables both this year and next. However, renewables will surpass nuclear generation next year, according to the EIA.

Earlier this month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Energy Infrastructure Update with data through April 2019 showed that renewable installed capacity surpassed coal, with renewables accounting for 21.56 percent of total available installed U.S. generating capacity, compared to a 21.55-percent share for coal’s installed capacity.

In its inventory of electric generators in January this year, the EIA said that wind, natural gas, and solar capacity will lead the new electricity capacity in the United States in 2019, while coal-fired generation will account for more than half of scheduled capacity retirements.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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