Brittany Patterson Published

Renewable Energy Outpaces Coal For First Time in the U.S.

Solar panels arriving in Fayette County.

For the first time in the United States, renewable energy, including solar, wind and hydropower generated more electricity than coal, a trend the federal U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts will continue. 


According to data from the EIA released this month, in April 2019, electricity generated by renewables outpaced coal by more than 8,000 megawatt-hours, equivalent to what 11 of the most efficient coal power plants create each year.

This year, the agency forecasts solar, wind and hydropower will produce 18 percent of the country’s electricity. Coal’s share of power production will average 24 percent, down three points from last year. Last year, U.S. coal consumption reached a nearly 40-year low. 


West Virginia University Law Professor Jamie Van Nostrand said technology is driving down the cost of renewable energy faster than analysts expected. 

“Wind turbines continue to get more efficient, solar panels are more efficient and cost-effective, and I think the biggest breakthrough has been with storage, grid-scale storage,” he said. “It’s staggering how quickly with renewables the prices are coming down and how cost-effective they’ve become.”

Van Nostrand, who also directs WVU’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, added that West Virginia policy has not kept pace. He pointed out that the state does not have a comprehensive statewide energy plan or Renewable Portfolio Standard that might incentivize, or at least recognize, the growing benefits of renewables. Furthermore, West Virginia does not allow third-party ownership of renewable energy, also called Power Purchase Agreements.

“All the other states are taking advantage of both the low electricity rates, and the jobs that go along with clean energy,” he added. “And we are totally missing that in West Virginia.”

Power prices in West Virginia have risen faster than any other state in the nation over the last decade.