The amount of electricity generated in the U.S. in 2022 from renewable sources was greater than that generated from coal, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
This is the first time that power generation from coal has been outpaced by renewable sources, such as wind, solar, hydro, biomass and geothermal, EIA said in a March 27 report. Renewable power generation also surpassed nuclear generation for a second consecutive year in 2022.
This change has significant implications for freight trains because they deliver coal for both domestic consumption and export. Although U.S. coal carloads grew 2.7% to 3.4 million carloads from 2021 to 2022 amid higher natural gas prices, the industry has been projecting the systemic decline of coal carloads for years.
Indeed, natural gas-fired generation was the largest single source of U.S. power generation in 2022. The share of natural gas generation was 39% that year, up from 37% in 2021. Meanwhile, the share of coal generation decreased from 23% in 2021 to 20% in 2022 “as a number of coal-fired power plants retired and the remaining plants were used less,” EIA said.
Among renewable sources, the share of wind and solar combined rose from 12% of total U.S. power generation in 2021 to 14% in 2022 amid growth in wind and solar generating capacity.
Hydropower generation’s share was unchanged at 6%, while the shares for biomass and geothermal sources were at less than 1%. Texas was the top state for producing wind-generated power and was second for producing solar-generated power. California was first for producing power from solar energy.
“As developers add generating capacity from renewable sources to the grid we expect more renewable electricity generation given regulatory incentives and renewables’ low operating cost relative to other sources,” EIA said in its short-term energy outlook published on March 7. “The declining capacities of U.S. coal power plants and, to a lesser extent, nuclear power plants also reduced the amount of electricity generated from those sources.”
The U.S electric power sector produced 4.09 billion gigawatthours of electric power in 2022, EIA said.
Meanwhile, U.S. coal exports were 84.8 million short tons in 2022, little changed from 2021’s 85.1 million short tons, EIA said last Tuesday.
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