The US is becoming more dependent on renewable energy, moving away from coal as a major power source.
The Energy Information Administration reported that in April 2019, US electricity production from renewable sources exceeded that of coal-fired power plants—a historical first for the country’s energy mix.
Renewable sources accounted for 23% of the total US electricity production versus 20% contributed by coal. Sources of renewable energy considered in the report include biomass, geothermal, hydro, solar, and wind.
The situation was caused by long-term trends in the energy sector and the seasonal fluctuations of both electricity usage by customers and the availability of renewable energy sources.
Coal use for electricity generation has been continuously declining. The trend is mainly affected by the closure of coal power plants, market demand for cleaner energy sources, and increasing operational cost.
On the other hand, electricity generation from renewable sources in the US has doubled since 2008. This is due to the steady increase in the installation of wind and solar energy generation systems.
Fluctuations caused by seasonal energy demands by customers and variable renewable energy sources also contributed to this event. During the spring season, air-conditioning systems are either not used or require less energy to operate, lessening the demand on the power grid.
Hydroelectric power production typically peaks around spring season due to the increase in water resource from the melting of snow. This allows some coal-fired power plants to shut down to perform maintenance activities on their equipment.
Based on the trends, it is expected that renewable energy production will exceed coal-based electricity production more frequently in the future.