King Coal has lost his crown—at least temporarily.
Electricity generation data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) for April 2015 showed the U.S. generated 92.5 TWh from natural gas and 88.8 TWh from coal, the first time the nation has gotten the largest share of its power from anything other than coal. That represents a market share of about 31.5% against 30.2% for coal.
Year-to-date, coal has supplied 34.8% of the nation’s electricity compared to 29.2% for gas, but the April figures represent a dramatic shift over the past few years. Coal supplied 37% of the total in April 2014 and 37.3% in April 2013. Gas briefly matched coal in the spring of 2012 as a result of crashing gas prices—which dipped under $2/MMBtu—but has held the number-two spot since.
In its Annual Energy Outlook, the EIA projected that coal will supply 36% of U.S. electricity in 2015 while gas will supply 31%. As recently as 2010, coal supplied nearly twice the electricity generated from gas. Falling gas prices as a result of the shale boom and coal plants shutting down because of environmental regulations have changed the landscape substantially.
—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).