On a High Note: Renewables Beat Out Coal, Ending Last Year’s Surge
In Q2 of this year, renewables finally surpassed coal production, making up almost 25% of all electricity generated in the US.
Prior to this reporting and over the past couple of years, coal had been making a worldwide comeback. In 2021, its use in the US briefly surged following the first year of the Coronavirus pandemic, while China's "standard coal equivalent of energy" grew by 5.2% from 2020, the most in a decade. More recently, Europe has been responding to this year’s energy crisis by rolling back coal restrictions and extending deadlines to phase it out.
Despite the above, coal’s long-term decline continues, especially in the US. In 2022, high coal prices and continued plant closings made renewables more viable. Earlier this summer, the Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) announced that Alaska’s largest coal plant, Healy Unit 2, will close in the next two years in favor of wind power. Even in West Virginia, whose government has been fighting for the coal industry statewide and federally, renewables have been picking up steam. A large contributor is the Inflation Reduction Act, (IRA), which has boosted job creation in renewables as coal jobs rapidly disappear.
On a global level, coal is also falling. In the first half of 2022, coal-fired power generation fell by 1.2% compared with last year, as a result of the economic slowdowns in China and increasing coal prices after Russia invaded Ukraine. Economists had predicted coal to grow by 4.1% in China from 2021 to 2024, but the share of energy produced by coal has already decreased by 2.6% this year, causing them to reconsider previous growth expectations.
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