US annual coal consumption falls below renewables in landmark 2019

More renewable energy was consumed in the US last year than coal-fired energy for the first time since the 19th century, in a landmark moment for the green energy transition in the global superpower.

Renewable energy consumption increased by 1% on 2018 to reach a record high, as the US base of wind and solar farms continued to expand, while coal consumption slumped by almost 15% last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest Monthly Energy Review.

The sliding doors milestone comes as coal fell to its sixth straight year of declines to reach its weakest level since 1964, despite President Donald Trump’s attempts to prop up the industry by slashing environmental regulations and installing a former coal lobbyist to lead the EPA.

In contrast, renewables recorded a fourth straight year of growth, propelled by falling costs and rising climate change concerns. However, the EIA’s statistics measure only consumption not power generation. From that perspective, coal still leads renewables.

“We are moving away from coal steadily, consistently and quickly,” said Dennis Wamsted, research analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “The Trump administration has been completely unable to turn around the market transition to cleaner and cheaper renewable energy.”

2020 is set to deliver another strong year of growth for the US renewables sector despite COVID-19 disruptions, and particularly following the installation of the first offshore wind turbine in US waters earlier this week. Ørsted North America president Thomas Brostrøm called it ‘a monumental day’ for the US offshore wind sector.