2020 marked an important milestone in our transition away from coal as a means of producing electricity. In the US, coal power plants experienced the country’s lowest annual coal consumption since 1965, and the fossil fuel is expected to reach levels last seen in the 19th century in coming years, reports Bloomberg.
Coal is getting a respite in 2021 as the global economic engine is steadily recovering from the pandemic slumber, and projections also show a small increase in 2022. After that, though, the US Energy Information Association expects the dirty fossil fuel to resume its decline, which averaged five percent annually prior to the pandemic.
While most of the market-share loss so far has been to natural gas, the combination of cheap wind and solar power plus better battery technologies will likely push coal’s continued decline. According to BloombergNEF, electricity generation from coal is expected to fall to about half of 2020’s depressed levels.
What’s more, in other parts of the world, coal’s demise is even more palpable. In the UK, where the coal-fueled Industrial Revolution took off, annual consumption has dropped to 1790s level at just 10 million metric tons per year.