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Opinion
Justin Fox

Coal’s Days May Be Over in the U.S.

Renewables will most likely surpass the fossil fuel in electricity generation this year despite the Trump administration’s efforts to prop it up.

It’s all downhill from here.

It’s all downhill from here.

Photographer: George Frey/Getty Images

Last year, there were 38 days when U.S. utilities got more electricity from hydroelectric, wind and solar generation than from coal, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. So far this year, according to the IEEFA and my own crunching of U.S. Energy Information Administration data, it’s already 122 — including every day in the month of April and all but three in May.

In the summer months, higher electricity demand and decreased production from wind turbines and dams give coal a seasonal boost, but expect renewables to start outgenerating it again in the fall. The EIA is now projecting that renewables will produce more electricity than coal for 2020 as a whole — a milestone that as recently as last year it didn’t anticipate coming until 2031. Here’s how things looked through May, the most recent month for which full data are available: