RSS   Newsletter   Contact   Advertise with us

U.S. coal consumption may hit 39-year low

Staff Writer | December 29, 2018
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said that it expected coal consumption across the United States to hit a 39-year low in 2018.
America coal mine
America   Coal consumption in the United States this year could fall
According to EIA, total U.S. coal consumption this year could fall to 691 million short tons. Such reading was 4 percent lower than the consumption in 2017 and the lowest level since 1979.

EIA said that coal consumption across the United States had been falling since 2007. It also forecast that 2018 coal consumption would be 44 percent, or 437 million short tons lower than its peak in 2007.

The decrease in coal consumption was mainly driven by declines in coal use in the electric power sector. As nation's largest consumer of coal, the electric power sector accounted for 93 percent of total coal consumption across the country between 2007 and 2018, said EIA.

"The decline in coal consumption since 2007 is the result of both the retirements of coal-fired power plants and the decreases in the capacity factors, or utilization, of coal plants as increased competition from natural gas and renewable sources have reduced coal's market share," said EIA.

Coal-fired power capacity in the United States included 1,470 generators in 2007, generating 313 gigawatts (GW) across the nation. However, 55 GW of capacity had retired by the end of 2017, while 14 GW of coal-fired generating capacity was expected to retire through 2018, said EIA.

The drop in coal-fired capacity was expected to further reduce coal consumption. EIA expected power sector coal consumption to fall 8 percent in 2019.

The other reason for the coal retirements was the price of coal relative to natural gas. Since 2007, U.S. natural gas prices had stayed relatively low due to the growth in domestic natural gas production.

EIA also noted that environmental concerns was another reason for coal retirements. Driven by stricter emissions standards, many smaller power plants were retired due to the cost of investing in emissions control technologies.