Written by Oliver Milman
Solar, wind and other renewable sources have toppled coal in energy generation in the United States for the first time in over 130 years, with the coronavirus pandemic accelerating a decline in coal that has profound implications for the climate crisis.
Not since wood was the main source of American energy in the 19th century has a renewable resource been used more heavily than coal, but 2019 saw a historic reversal, according to US government figures.
Coal consumption fell by 15%, down for the sixth year in a row, while renewables edged up by 1%. This meant renewables surpassed coal for the first time since at least 1885, a year when Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and America’s first skyscraper was erected in Chicago.
Electricity generation from coal fell to its lowest level in 42 years in 2019, with the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasting that renewables will eclipse coal as an electricity source this year. On 21 May, the year hit its 100th day in which renewables have been used more heavily than coal.
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