Coal's Share of U.S. Power Mix Seen Falling by Half by 2040

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  • About two-thirds of coal-fired plants to close by 2040: BNEF
  • Natural gas, renewables to grab market share from coal

QuickTake: Trump Pushes Coal Revival

Coal’s share in the U.S. power mix is projected to fall in half by 2040, according to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The fossil fuel -- which in 2008 generated half of America’s electricity -- will see a steep decline in market share starting in the latter half of the next decade as closures of U.S. coal-fired power plants mount, according to BNEF’s New Energy Outlook 2017 report published Thursday. Over that stretch, gas-fired electricity is forecast to rise by 22 percent while power from renewables is seen jumping by 169 percent.

While President Donald Trump has voiced repeated support for coal, the “economic realities over the next two decades’’ will not favor it in the power mix, BNEF said in a statement about the report.

To be sure, coal’s future looks brighter in some other long-term forecasts. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, in its 2017 annual energy outlook, projected that in 2040 coal will be used to generate 31 percent of America’s electricity. That scenario assumes the Obama-era Clean Power Plan -- a set of rules designed to curb carbon-dioxide emissions -- doesn’t go into force. Trump’s moved to kill those rules.

BNEF, meanwhile, is forecasting that almost two-thirds of the U.S. fleet of coal-fired power plants will be retired by 2040. At the end of 2016, there were 278 gigawatts of installed coal plant capacity -- and 174 gigawatts of that’s projected to close by 2040, according to the report.

Elsewhere, the report projects, coal use in Europe will fall by 87 percent by 2040. In China, coal-fired electricity generation will rise by 20 percent before peaking in 2026 -- which is also the year global coal use in the power sector peaks. Meanwhile, about 370 gigawatts of new coal plants that are planned will probably be canceled, with a third of those being in India. All told, global demand for thermal coal is projected to decline 15 percent by 2040, according to the report.

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