Skeptical Science

US coal use on the rise, however renewables proceed speedy development

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US coal use on the rise, but renewables continue rapid growth

Posted on 2 March 2022 by Visitor Writer

It is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections by Karin Kirk

In 2020, local weather advocates cheered as coal use fell by document quantities. However now coal use is climbing once more. What’s behind the current seesaw?

Within the U.S., the quantity of coal burned to generate electrical energy peaked in 2007 after which, between 2007 and 2020, fell by greater than 61 p.c. However as the consequences of Covid-19 proceed to re-shape power markets, 2021 introduced the most important enhance in coal consumption in additional than a decade. Because the begin of the brand new yr, rising world anxieties in regards to the destiny of Ukraine, below assault by Russia, increase new issues and anxieties sure to rattle power futures.

Coal bounce back graphic

Right here’s a walk-through of the occasions behind this development.

  • The usage of coal for electrical energy has been on a very massive slide since 2014, dropping by greater than half in simply six years.
  • Nationwide shutdowns and slowdowns in 2020 diminished power use and accelerated the continuing downturn in coal consumption. As electrical energy demand slackened, utilities and grid operators had the choice to maneuver away from the most costly types of power, like coal. Consequently, coal technology fell by 20 p.c in comparison with 2019, which is the most important one-year decline to this point.
  • As power use rebounded by way of 2021, manufacturing shortfalls led to will increase within the worth of pure gasoline, bringing coal again into financial favor.
  • The Power Info Administration estimated that coal-powered electrical energy technology elevated by 17 p.c in 2021, bringing it to a degree nonetheless 6% decrease than it was previous to the pandemic.
  • The present uptick is prone to be short-term, and the EIA expects coal use within the U.S. to fall once more in 2022 and subsequent years.
  • In contrast to fossil fuels, renewable power continued to extend all through the pandemic, and renewable power technology (proven right here as hydro, wind, photo voltaic, biomass, and geothermal mixed) has elevated steadily yearly since 2013. EIA projections present renewables catching as much as coal this yr, then surpassing coal in 2023.

Coal crops retiring; new renewables coming on-line

  • In 2022, the U.S. electrical energy provide appears to turn out to be cleaner, as 12.6 gigawatts of coal capability are set to be retired, and 21 gigawatts of recent wind and photo voltaic technology are to turn out to be operational. (Once more, anxieties and uncertainties in regards to the Russia/Ukraine warfare cloud predictions for the general power outlook in 2022.)

Gigawatts retiring graphic

General, the speed of coal retirement doesn’t result in assembly local weather targets.

  • Turning to the world stage, world coal consumption fell by 4 p.c in 2020, then rebounded by 4.5 p.c in 2021, nudging coal consumption above pre-pandemic ranges.
  • China is by far the world’s largest coal client, and China’s coal use didn’t lower in 2020. In accordance with the Worldwide Power Company, China is predicted to burn extra coal in 2021 than it did in any yr beforehand.
  • In accordance with Local weather Analytics, with a view to restrict local weather warming to 1.5° Celsius, world coal use must decline to 80% under 2010 utilization ranges by 2030. That concentrate on is along with reductions in burning different kinds of fossil fuels.
  • Even the 4% discount in world coal consumption final yr is way too gradual to fulfill local weather objectives. To achieve the goal set by Local weather Analytics, coal use must lower by round 15% per yr – yearly – starting in 2021 and persevering with till 2030.

Learn extra in regards to the present increase in coal from EIA.gov.

Electrical energy technology knowledge from the U.S. is accessible in EIA’s Short Term Energy Outlook data browser, in an interactive format with graphs.

Extra details about energy plant additions and retirements from EIA.gov.

World knowledge is from the Worldwide Power Company’s 2021 Global Energy Review.

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