Renewable sources including solar, wind and hydropower generated more electricity than coal-based plants every single day in April, a new report says.
Analysis shared by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEFA), based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), said the finding marks a major "milestone" in an energy transition that is now underway.
The move away from coal for electricity generation in the U.S. accelerated in 2020 due to lower gas prices, warmer weather and a "significant amount" of new renewable capacity being connected to the grid late last year, the report suggested.
It acknowledged that lower power demands resulting from economic slowdown sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic has also played a role in coal's decline.
Preliminary data from the EIA's Hourly Electric Grid Monitor found that utility-scale solar, wind and hydro had collectively produced more electricity than coal-based plants for roughly 40 days straight, based on statistics between March 25 and May 3.
As reported by Reuters, it shows how the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak could speed up a shift from coal power despite attempts by the Trump administration and the U.S. energy department to boost the fossil fuel industry in recent years.
In 2019, data showed there were a total of 38 days when renewables beat coal in terms of electricity generation. Last April saw the longest continuous stretch: nine days.
According to the IEFA, prior forecasts estimated yearly generation from renewables could pass coal in 2021. It may be happening faster than predicted.
Its most recent analysis suggested the higher cost of coal has left it as "one of the last" choices of fuel for many utility companies in the country. "In January, coal's market share fell below 20 percent for the first time in many decades—and possibly for the first time in the entire history of the U.S. power industry," the IEFA report stated.
The EIA confirmed in March this year that U.S. coal exports had declined to 93 million short tons (MMst) last year—roughly 20 percent compared to 2018.
While campaigning for office and since entering the White House, Trump has often enthused about the coal industry and promised jobs, but has faced a string of mining company bankruptcies, as Foreign Policy reported.
His stance on energy is also notable for its apparent mistrust of renewables, especially wind, which the president said is unreliable as it "only blows sometimes."
Referencing wind turbines in December 2019 (repeatedly referred to as "windmills"), Trump made a series of headline-grabbing statements about wind energy.
Speaking during a conference at West Palm Beach Florida, the president said: "We'll have an economy based on wind. I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. I've studied it better than anybody I know. It's very expensive."
He added: "And if you own a house within vision of some of these monsters, your house is worth 50 percent of the price. They're noisy. They kill the birds. You want to see a bird graveyard? You just go. Take a look. A bird graveyard. Go under a windmill someday."