For the first time, renewable energy sources in the US generated more electricity than thermal power plants
For the first time, the U.S. has generated more energy from renewables than from coal, marking a landmark for non-polluting energy in a country where climate denial has been a big part of state policy.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than a fifth of US energy was sourced from clean energy. The figures released show 22% of the electricity generated in the U.S. in April came from renewable sources like wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal power, which was higher than 20% of power production in April that came from coal.
The official figures were made public this week after early projections emerged in May.
The shift away from dirty Coal was due to seasonal factors as well as a long-running decline in the number of U.S. coal plants as they retire. In the US, late spring and early fall typically see the lowest electricity use because of reduced demand for heating and cooling. Meanwhile, generation of hydroelectric—the largest source of renewable electricity—”tends to peak in the spring as melting snowpack results in the increased water supply at downstream generators,” the EIA noted.
In US, coal—considered the dirtiest electricity source—has been in a long-term decline, with use of the fuel dropping to a 41-year low this year. Despite the Trump administration’s efforts to prop up the industry, 51 coal plants have closed since the 2016 election. Eight coal companies have filed for bankruptcy protection in the past four years.
In most of the US, it’s now cheaper to build a new solar or wind farm than to keep an existing coal plant open. A number of states have passed laws this year moving aggressively toward carbon-free electricity, including New York, Washington, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, putting added economic pressure on existing fossil-fuel plants.
U.S. government projections indicate that the month of May should see a similar trend for renewable power, and then coal generation ticking up again for the remainder of the year.