Renewable energy has surpassed coal in April 2020 for 40 straight days. (Image Credit: Myriam Zilles from Pixabay)
To date, the coronavirus pandemic has brought some positive changes on the planet, including decreased air pollution, wildlife roaming around freely, and more recently, the United States has seen an uptick in clean energy. During the economic decline as a result of mandatory stay-at-home rulings, renewable energies have started to gain momentum. Figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reveal that in April 2020, renewable energy generated more electricity than coal on every day of the month.
According to a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the clean energy stretch started on March 25th, when utility-scale solar, wind and hydropower collectively produced more than coal-fired generation and continued for 40 consecutive days through May 3rd. The increase in April wasn’t due to just the low gas prices, warmer weather, and a significant amount of renewable energy capacity added to the grid last year, but also due to lower electricity demand while Americans stay home. Since businesses have shut down across the country as a result of the pandemic, they do not need to rely as heavily on coal, which also contributes to less electricity demand.
Previously, the longest stretch occurred in April 2019, which had nine straight days of renewable energy beating coal. Last year alone, renewable energies surpassed coal in just 38 days, making the current trend even more impressive.
IEEFA predicted that power generation from renewables would exceed coal-fired generation in 2021, marking a significant milestone in the country’s transition to clean energy. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, renewable generation has already surpassed coal in the first quarter of 2020. Since this could be a continuing trend in the second quarter, there is a higher chance the country could hit the milestone as early as this year.
The high cost of coal has caused utilities to stop relying on it when demand is diminishing. Renewable energies are less costly to operate and are frequently supported by clean energy regulations. In April, electricity generated by coal held just 15.3% of the market share, according to EIA figures.
Coal’s market share fell below 20% in January for the first time in decades, and possibly the entire history of the United States power industry, ending at 19.9%. EIA figures also show that coal’s market share continued to fall, dropping to 18.3% in February and 17.3% in March. In 2008, it was over 50% in the months of January, February and March.