Electricity generated by coal-fired power plants dropped last year to the lowest level in more than four decades, reflecting the rise of cheaper sources such as natural-gas and wind.
Output from U.S. coal-fired generating plants dropped to 966,000 gigawatt hours in 2019, the lowest level since 1976, according to the Energy Department. One gigawatt of power can supply about 700,000 homes.
At the same time natural gas-fired generation hit a record of nearly 1.6 million gigawatt hours in 2019, up 8 percent from the previous year. Wind-powered electricity generation also set a record, exceeding 300,000 gigawatt hours, up 10 percent from 2018.
Lower overall electricity demand last year also played a role in depressing coal consumption, the government said.
U.S. coal-fired capacity peaked at 318 gigawatts in 2011 and has declined as coal-fired plants retired, switched to other fuel sources and the higher costs of coal generation discouraged construction of new coal-fired plants. Coal-generating capacity totaled 229 gigawatts in 2019, according to the Energy Department.