Green Energy in the US eclipses Fossil-fuels for the First Time


A wind farm off California

A wind farm off California.  Credit: CC / Carol M. Highsmith

The United States has broken a record in terms of electricity generation in April 2019 with 22% of its power coming from renewable sources. Coal based energy only accounted for 20% of the entire energy output, marking a milestone for clean energy.

A full 22% of the electricity generated came from sources like wind, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal energy according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This shift away from coal is due to seasonal factors as well as developments in the clean energy industry.

In the United States, late spring and early fall see low electricity use due to reduced heating and cooling demands. Simultaneously, hydroelectric generation peaks around this time because the melting snow feeds downstream generators. A rise in cheap production of shale gas and an overall drop in renewable energy prices have hit the profitability of coal hard. It is now cheaper to build solar and wind farms compared to coal plants.

There has been a steady decline in electricity generation through coal since 2011, with its use dropping to a 41-year low. Despite the current administration’s efforts to boost the industry, over 50 plants have closed down since 2016 alone, with 8 companies filing for bankruptcy.

Clean energy has seen several developments in the past few years with bold new propositions like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. States like New York, Washington, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico have passed laws to move towards carbon-free electricity production putting more economic pressure on existing fossil-fuel plants. U.S. government projections indicate that the month of May should see a similar trend for renewable power, and then coal generation ticking up again for the remainder of the year.

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