Compared to the same period in 2019, the United States electric power sector consumed 184.8 million short tons (MMst) of coal — 30 percent less — in the first half of 2020, showcasing the declines in usage brought about by a changing environment, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports.
Coal saw an annual record of 1,045 MMst in 2007 but has been declining since, according to EIA reports. This has been brought about by coal plant retirements, air standards, price drops, and natural gas conversions. The EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook predicts that electric power coal consumption should nevertheless rebound a bit in the second half of the year, although still at lower levels than in 2019. In fact, consumption levels stand to hit their lowest level since 1975.
Reductions in coal-fired generation capacity have been paired with declines in electric power sector coal consumption due to record low priced natural gas. Mild winter temperatures and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have also reduced electricity demand this year. Other sectors have brought similar coal consumption declines: retail, industrial sectors, and coke plants, specifically, have all majorly reduced usage.