For the first time in more than 135 years, America consumed more renewable energy than coal last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
The data shows that renewable energy like solar and wind is continuing to boom across the US, while the nation’s coal consumption collapsed by another 15% to its lowest level since 1964.
The milestone was announced on Thursday, May 28. It demonstrates America’s dramatic shift away from coal despite President Donald Trump’s attempts to boost the industry, with Trump even going so far as to nominate a former coal lobbyist to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Despite the fact that Trump looks set to wipe out years of environmental progress with his administration for weakening almost 100 environmental regulations, these figures represent the sixth-straight year of declines for coal consumption.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the consumption of renewable energy in the country hit a record high last year, marking its fourth-straight year of growth.
In a CNN report, Dennis Wamsted, research analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis said that they are moving away from coal steadily, consistently, and quickly.
“The Trump administration has been completely unable to turn around the market transition to cleaner and cheaper renewable energy.”
Coal has played a dominant role in US energy consumption for years. Although recently, it has faced competition from renewable sources like wind energy, hydropower, solar power, and geothermal energy.
Wind energy in particular has been growing fast. The power generation from wind last year surpassed hydropower for the first time. In fact, the wind is now the most popular form of renewable energy in America.
While this is obviously a step in the right direction, it is important to note that these figures from EIA measure only consumption, not power generation. In terms of power generation, coal still leads the renewables.
However, it doesn’t mean that renewable energy will not soon take the lead. The first time that the United States generated more electricity from renewables than the coal was in April 2019, and it is likely to happen on an annual basis for the first time in 2020 despite the disruption caused by the ongoing pandemic.
“People want renewables. Corporations are asking for it,” Wamsted said. “They are being pushed by consumers.’’