U.S. Renewable Energy Overtook Coal for the First Time Since 1885, Says EIA

This is the first time such an event has occurred in over 130 years.
Loukia Papadopoulos

The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Energy Review has finally been released, and it presents some very promising news. In 2019, the country's annual energy consumption from renewable sources exceeded coal consumption, reported Power Engineering. This is the very first time such an event has occurred in over 130 years.


This positive news stems from the continued decline in the amount of coal used over the past decade combined with the growth in renewable energy. Compared with just 2018, coal consumption dropped nearly 15%, and total renewable energy consumption rose by 1%.

EIA gets its results by converting sources of energy to common units of heat, called British thermal units (Btu). This allows the agency to compare different types of energy with different physical units. 

In 2019, U.S. coal consumption dropped for the sixth consecutive year to 11.3 quadrillions Btu. This was its lowest level in 42 years. This is partially due to the rise of natural gas consumption in the electric power sector.

Meanwhile, total renewable energy consumption in the country rose for the fourth year in a row to an impressive 11.5 quadrillion Btu in 2019. That year also saw electricity generation from wind surpass hydro.

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Today, renewable energy is more broadly consumed by every sector in the U.S.: 56% is used in the electric power sector, 22% in the industrial, 12% in transportation, 7% in residential, and 2% in the commercial sectors.

Although coal was once commonly used in all these sectors as well, today it is mostly used to generate electricity. About 90% of coal consumption goes to the electric power sector. 

Biomass, on the other hand, is consumed in every sector. In a world desperate to curb its emissions, the EIA's latest report comes as a breath of fresh air.

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