Renewables top coal for first time - Smart Energy Decisions

Hydro, Solar, Sourcing Renewables, Wind  -  May 1, 2019

Renewables top coal for first time

For the first time ever, renewable energy (including hydro, biomass, wind, solar and geothermal) is projected to generate more electricity than coal-fired plants for the month of April and could do so again in May, according to data published in the Energy Information Administration’s Short-Term Energy Outlook.

“The future of the U.S. electricity generation industry may have arrived, and it is not good news for struggling coal-fired generating plants,” said the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), in their release analyzing these results. “The EIA sees renewable generation topping coal-fired output sporadically this year, and again in 2020. The estimates in the EIA outlook show renewable energy generating 2,322 and 2,271 thousand megawatt-hours (MWh/day) per day in April and May, respectively. This would top coal’s expected output of 1,997 and 2,239 thousand MWh/day during the same two months.”

IEEFA points out that there are seasonal considerations in the April results – referring to a “long-held practice of taking coal plants offline during the lower demand periods of the spring (and fall) to perform maintenance and upgrades to ensure that they are ready for the higher demand of the summer and winter seasons. In addition, spring tends to be peak time for hydro generation.”

Even so, the results are indicative of the energy transformation brought about by the growing renewable energy sector. EIA forecasts show a reduction in coal production of 9% in 2018 and 6% in 2019. “This represents a momentous development driven by the deep transition under way in the electric generation arena," noted IEEFA, adding that renewable output is likely to will begin outpacing coal more and more frequently.

The EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook also forecasts that all renewable fuels, including wind, solar, and hydroelectric generation, will produce 18% of U.S. electricity in 2019, and almost 20% in 2020. By comparison, power generation of coal dropped to 28% in 2018 and is expected to fall further to 24% in 2020. EIA expects that wind generation will surpass hydroelectric generation to become the leading source of renewable electricity in 2019 and 2020.


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