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

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 5/28/2020 Will Wade

(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 it replaced wood for 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.

While coal has been gradually replaced in transportation and heating, it remained the biggest source of U.S. electricity until it was surpassed by natural gas in 2016. In a significant milestone, power generated by burning coal was expected to be overtaken by renewable electricity this year, but the consumption figures show that the green transition is already happening.

“This shows us the trend toward renewables is clearly well underway,” said Dennis Wamsted, an analyst for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. “We see it speeding up.”

a screenshot of a cell phone: Crossover © Bloomberg Crossover

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