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U.S. Renewables Outstrip Coal for First Time Since 19th Century

  • ‘The trend toward renewables is clearly well underway’
  • Coal saw 15% decline in 2019 while renewables rose 1.4%
Hopper cars laden with coal trail behind an eastbound freight train heading through Waddy, Kentucky, U.S.
Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

The U.S. consumed more energy from renewable sources last year than from coal, the first time that’s happened since the late 1800s when wood stopped powering steamships and trains.

Coal accounted for 11.3 quadrillion British thermal units of energy in 2019, a 15% decline from the prior year, a drop driven mainly by utilities turning away from the dirtiest fossil fuel. Renewables recorded 11.5 quadrillion Btu, up 1.4%, according to a statement Thursday from the the U.S. Energy Information Administration.