The US Energy Information Administration reported last week that US power plants reduced their use of coal by almost 30% during the past nine years. In 2015, 739 million short tons of coal were burned to produce electricity, down from a 1.045 billion short tons in 2007, the peak year.
Coal use also fell in nearly every state. States with the largest declines are in the Midwest and Southeast, with six states in these regions accounting for nearly half of the national decline. Smaller declines can be seen in the Rocky Mountain region. Pennsylvania’s coal consumption fell by 44% and Ohio’s, by 49%. (Fracking of the Utica and Marcellus shales resulted in these largest declines.) Alaska and Nebraska are the only states to have increased their use.
What took coal’s place? Natural gas and renewable energies. According to the EIA, “increased supply of natural gas and a resulting natural gas price decline spurred increases in natural gas-fired power generation in several states, generally at the expense of coal-fired generation. Electricity generation from wind and solar sources also increased significantly over this period, driven by a combination of federal tax credits, state-level mandates, and technology improvements.”