In a major win for the green energy transition, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently reported that the country consumed more energy from renewable sources last year than from coal, the first time that’s happened since the late 1800s when wood stopped powering steamships and trains.
According to EIA, coal accounted for 11.3 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs) of energy in 2019, a remarkable 15 percent decline from the prior year, driven mainly by utilities turning away from the dirtiest fossil fuel. Renewables went up by 1.4 percent to hit 11.5 BTUs.
While coal has been gradually replaced in transportation and heating, it remained the biggest source of US electricity until it was surpassed by natural gas in 2016. In a significant milestone, the power generated by burning coal was expected to be overtaken by renewable electricity this year, but the consumption figures show that the green transition is already happening.
“This shows us the trend toward renewables is clearly well underway,” said Dennis Wamsted, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “We see it speeding up”.