Coal Reclaims Top Dog Status at U.S. Power Plants in May

Coal reclaimed its ranking as the top fuel for generating electricity at U.S. power plants in May, beating natural gas, which took the number one spot for the first time in April.

Coal accounted for 33 percent of net electricity generation with gas’s 31 percent, the Energy Information Administration said Monday in its Electric Power Monthly report.

Still, coal-fired power generation was down 12 percent from a year ago, while gas was up 14 percent. Net generation from all energy sources was down 0.7 percent from the prior year.

The year-on-year figures underscore the different trajectories for the competing fuels. Gas has eaten into thermal coal’s share at U.S. plants for much of the past decade, buoyed by the shale revolution and tougher emissions standards. The trend lines crossed in April when gas made up 32 percent of electricity production while coal accounted for 30 percent.

Also in May, renewable sources excluding hydroelectric power surged 9.4 percent from year earlier. Solar, wind and other renewable energy sources accounted for 8.2 percent of net generation. Wind gained 9.9 percent to account for 5.3 percent of all electricity, the EIA said.

The EIA projected this spring that coal would account for 34 percent of electricity generation in 2040. Natural gas was expected to follow at 31 percent with renewables’ accounting for 18 percent. That assessment didn’t include the impact of new regulations on carbon dioxide emissions.

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