In a first, the two renewables dethroned “king coal” for the first five months of 2023.
Wind and solar power outpaced energy from coal for the first five months of 2023, a first in the US.
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Solar and wind power have set a record, generating more electricity in the US than coal for the first five months of 2023.
Data from the US Energy Information Administration indicates that the two renewables outproduced coal in January, February and March, CBS News reported, while preliminary figures show the same trend for April and May.
All told, wind and solar generated a combined 252 terawatt-hours from January through May, compared with coal’s output of 249 TWh.
Clean energy sources have outpaced coal before, first in 2020 and again in 2022, but only when hydropower was included. This is the first time solar and wind reached the benchmark on their own.
Adding hydroelectric to the tally, renewables have actually been outperforming coal steadily for the last six months, since October 2022.
EIA Administrator Joe DeCarolis predicted the trend would continue through this summer and beyond.
“We expect that the United States will generate less electricity from coal this year than in any year this century,” DeCarolis said in a forecast in May. “As electricity providers generate more electricity from renewable sources, we see electricity generated from coal decline over the next year and a half.”
A focus on carbon-neutral sources, coupled with the lower cost of natural gas and the shuttering of many coal plants has pushed coal out of favor.
There was a brief resurgence last year, when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused natural gas prices to spike. But coal’s decline “is happening faster than anyone anticipated,” Andy Blumenfeld, an industry analyst for McCloskey by OPIS, told E&E News.
Just 15 years ago, coal accounted for nearly half the electricity generated in the US. By 2021, that figure dropped to about 22%, according to EIA data. Last year, coal generated just 20% of domestic electricity, compared with 14% from wind and solar.
Natural gas is still the largest source of power in the country, accounting for about 39% of US electricity in 2022.