Only a decade ago, coal was the largest source of energy in the United States. Together with natural gas and crude oil, these fossil fuels accounted for more than two-thirds of our energy production. Since then, despite government efforts to prop up the failing coal industry by relaxing regulations meant to restrain their effect on the environment, coal has fallen sharply as an energy source, by over a third of what it was in 2010. And better news; according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the United States is on track to produce more power in 2020 from renewable energy sources than from coal, a national first.
Since 2010, electrical utility companies have increasingly chosen to stop investing in their costly and aging coal plants, retiring hundreds of plants in that time. Concurrently, the cost of building renewable energy generating tools like wind farms and solar panels has dropped hugely. Wind farms as only half as expensive as they were in the early 2000s, and solar prices have dropped by over 80 percent as more and more companies provide demand and innovation.
Today, while the COVID-19 crisis shutters thousands of businesses, demand for electricity has fallen in ways we’ve never seen before, putting more economic pressure on electrical utilities to cut the fat. Coal plants, with a very few exceptions, are more expensive than wind, solar, or natural gas (which, while still a fossil fuel, burns much cleaner than coal). Coal consumption is expected to drop by a further 25 percent this year, nearly equaling the fall of the last 10 years.
It’s not only coal’s deepening failure driving this achievement. More and more states have invested more seriously in renewable energy. In only the first four months of the year, renewables have out-generated coal on 90 days. Last year, in 12 months, coal only lost on 38 days. On one day in Texas, wind alone created over three times as much electricity as coal did in the entire nation.
Renewables are winning, to all of our benefit.