The US Has Generated More Electricity from Renewables Than Coal for the First Time Ever

Experts are saying this is part of a trend that will see renewables become a more attractive proposition, for the planet and for businesses.
Chris Young

New federal government data shows that the US generated more electricity from renewable sources than coal for the first time in April.

According to the Energy Information Administration, renewable energy, including solar and wind, provided 23% of US electricity generation during April, compared with coal's 20%. 


A first for renewable energy

This is the first time that renewable energy sources have surpassed coal in the US. The month of April was a particularly excellent month for renewables. There was a boost in wind generation as well as a low energy demand.

It is entirely possible that coal provides more energy than renewables for the rest of 2019. However, many are saying that the long-term energy strategy has been clearly set by this new data.

“The fate of coal has been sealed, the market has spoken,” Michael Webber, an energy expert at the University of Texas, told the Guardian.

“The trend is irreversible now, the decline of coal is unstoppable despite Donald Trump’s rhetoric.”

The decline of coal

One of Trump's many promises when coming into office was to revive the coal industry. Voters in mining regions were told he would be undoing various climate and clean air regulations.

Despite Trump's claims, at least 50 coal-fired power plants have close down since Trump became president in 2017.  

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“Trump has made a promise that will be broken, which is a tragedy for coalminers who were told they don’t need to get other jobs or get new skills,” said Webber.

“They have been sent the wrong signal and now there are lay-offs.”

A caveat

The cost of renewables and gas is dropping, meaning that they are not only a more favorable proposition for those seeking to improve the environment. They are also a more sound choice from a business perspective.

Though the use of coal is declining, some environmental experts say the increasing trend of shifting from coal to gas, which is still a fossil fuel, may hamper efforts to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 — a milestone scientists say we need to reach if we are to avoid disastrous effects of climate change.

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