So the electricity data for May came out recently and a bit of spreadsheet work shows a nice drop in coal consumption to a record low percentage. Total coal tonnage burned is at 74% of the same period in 2021 and 2022. For me the number one priority is replacing coal generation with wind + sun generation or at least gas generation. For each unit of electricity created coal burning emits 2.5 times the carbon compared to natural gas burning so that makes a big difference and we will likely need the additional gas generation for backup usage and replacing old units.
If we divide the sources into the categories we get a cleaner chart. The fossil fuels have come down under 60% for the first time in probably over 100 years when we mostly used hydro generated electricity. Nuclear and hydro are the low carbon sources that don’t see much change in share. The long-haired hippy sources of wind and solar are at 13.7% and climbing. I expect this to increase as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act.
In the first chart we see that coal consumption jumped up and natural gas dipped down over the last two years. The explanation is just price — we see the Texas Freeze of 2021 as that huge spike and after that the price goes up until this past February when it drops quickly down to 2019 levels. The price of coal was stable and so generating companies shifted from gas to coal units. Now that the price is back down generating has shifted back to gas. Looking at the first chart shows several other times when coal generation increases while gas generation decreases for the same reason.
Seeing coal consumption drop so much is very encouraging to me and good news is welcome. I would like to see renewables installed at about double the current rate, say 2.5% per year, to get coal replaced by 2030. Coal burning to generate electricity accounts for 92% of the total coal consumption in the USA so this has a big, positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
Edit to add that all info here is from the Energy Information Administration.