U.S. Renewable Energy Consumption Surpasses Coal For 1st Time In Over 130 Years, but Still a Long Ways to Go for Electricity

U.S. coal and renewable energy consumption

December 31st, 2020 by U.S. Energy Information Administration   Monthly Energy Review in Clean Technica

In 2019, U.S. annual energy consumption from renewable sources exceeded coal consumption for the first time since before 1885, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Monthly Energy Review. This outcome mainly reflects the continued decline in the amount of coal used for electricity generation over the past decade as well as growth in renewable energy, mostly from wind and solar. Compared with 2018, coal consumption in the United States decreased nearly 15%, and total renewable energy consumption grew by 1%.

Historically, wood was the main source of U.S. energy until the mid-1800s and was the only commercial-scale renewable source of energy in the United States until the first hydropower plants began producing electricity in the 1880s. Coal was used in the early 1800s as fuel for steam-powered boats and trains and making steel, and it was later used to generate electricity in the 1880s. EIA’s earliest energy estimates began in 1635.

EIA converts sources of energy to common units of heat, called British thermal units (Btu), to compare different types of energy that are reported in different physical units (barrels, cubic feet, tons, kilowatthours, etc.). EIA uses a fossil fuel equivalence to calculate electricity consumption of noncombustible renewables such as wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal.U.S. coal and renewable energy consumption by source

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

In 2019, U.S. coal consumption decreased for the sixth consecutive year to 11.3 quadrillion Btu, the lowest level since 1964. Electricity generation from coal has declined significantly over the past decade and, in 2019, fell to its lowest level in 42 years. Natural gas consumption in the electric power sector has significantly increased in recent years and has displaced much of the electricity generation from retired coal plants.

Total renewable energy consumption in the United States grew for the fourth year in a row to a record-high 11.5 quadrillion Btu in 2019. Since 2015, the growth in U.S. renewable energy is almost entirely attributable to the use of wind and solar in the electric power sector. In 2019, electricity generation from wind surpassed hydro for the first time and is now the most-used source of renewable energy for electricity generation in the United States on an annual basis.U.S. coal and renewable energy consumption

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Although coal was once commonly used in the industrial, transportation, residential, and commercial sectors, today coal is mostly used in the United States to generate electricity. About 90% of U.S. coal consumption is in the electric power sector, and nearly all the rest is in the industrial sector.

Renewable energy is more broadly consumed by every sector in the United States. About 56% of commercially delivered U.S. renewable energy is used in the electric power sector, mostly from wind and hydroelectric power, but different types are also consumed in the industrial (22%), transportation (12%), residential (7%), and commercial (2%) sectors.

Biomass, which includes wood, biogenic waste, and biofuels, is consumed in every sector. Wood and the losses and co-products from production of biofuels are the main renewable sources used in the industrial sector, and biofuels such as fuel ethanol, biodiesel, and renewable diesel are used in the transportation sector. Wood, waste, solar, and geothermal are among the most common sources used directly in the residential and commercial sectors.

See EIA’s U.S. energy consumption by source and sector chart for data on all energy sources and sectors and Section 10 of EIA’s Monthly Energy Review for data on individual types of renewable energy.

Principal contributor: Mickey Francis Courtesy of Today in Energy, EIA  


Institutional Investors Are Running Away From Big Oil, & Towards The “Safe Haven” Of Clean Tech

January 1st, 2021 by Guest Contributor Clean Technica, Originally published on EV Annex. by Charles Morris

The global transition from fossil fuels to clean energy isn’t going to happen because it’s the best choice for human health and the environment. Observing the way humans have responded to the current pandemic should put to rest any delusions about our propensity to “do the right thing.” No, companies and investors will abandon polluting energy sources when they become convinced that it’s the profitable thing to do. Fortunately, we’re seeing strong signs that this is beginning to happen.

Investors are moving into stocks like Tesla in order to take part in the world’s energy transition. (Photo by Casey Murphy, EVANNEX.)

Alex Kimani, writing in the oil industry trade magazine OilPrice.com, explains how an increasing number of large institutional investors are shifting their assets from the oil patch to what are called “ESG” (Environmental, Social and Governance) investments — a category that includes renewable energy and e-mobility.

Blackrock is the world’s largest asset manager, with almost $8 trillion in funds under management. It has been bulking up on ESG-oriented investments over the past year, and perhaps more importantly, it recently signaled that it will be lending a more sympathetic ear to activist shareholder groups that are challenging boards of directors at companies in polluting industries.

An increasingly large number of such groups have been pressuring oil firms and others to do more to prepare for the coming transition to clean energy — not because it’s the right thing to do (although, to be fair, that is certainly a part of their arguments), but because the boards’ business-as-usual attitudes threaten the companies’ bottom lines.

ExxonMobil, among other oil giants, is facing increasing pressure from major investors to clean up its act. An activist investor group called Engine No. 1, which includes the founders of hedge funds including Partner Fund Management and JANA Partners, plans to seek four board seats at the fossil fuel behemoth, with the aim of radically changing the way Exxon does business.

California pension giant CalSTRS, which invests on behalf of the state’s teachers, is a backer of Engine No. 1. “With Exxon it has been very unsuccessful, sadly, trying to get their attention, change their behavior,” CalSTRS Chief Investment Officer Chris Ailman told CNBC. “This company is just throwing money after projects that are not going to be successful. Exxon … has been focused on drilling every last molecule of carbon. They need to wake up and realize the future is different.”

ExxonMobil recently announced a half-hearted plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions — a move that activists and analysts scorned as totally inadequate. “A 15%–20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions intensity over nine years is not an ambitious target — it’s essentially business as usual,” said Raymond James Energy Analyst Pavel Molchanov.

“Nothing in ExxonMobil’s stated plans better positions it for long-term success in a world seeking to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions,” said an Engine No. 1 spokesperson.

While some mega-investors are trying to modify the oil giants’ behavior, others are simply heading toward the exits. New York State’s $226-billion pension fund recently announced plans to divest from oil and gas stocks entirely over the next few years.

Big Oil’s loss is clean tech’s gain — investments in ESG-oriented companies have steadily grown over the past couple of years, and this year’s pandemic has kicked the trend into overdrive. Investors’ appetite for e-mobility stocks has become nothing short of ravenous — in a stroke of poetic justice, Tesla has displaced Occidental Petroleum as a member of the S&P 100 index, and EV-related firms are going public at a frenzied pace.

According to OilPrice.com, sustainable investing assets now total $17.1 trillion — up 42% from 2018 — and three-quarters of institutional investors plan to stop investing in companies that aren’t considered sustainable.

Ironically, oil company stocks, once seen as safe bets for little old ladies’ nest eggs, are increasingly considered risky investments, while clean tech, once seen as a volatile emerging sector, is now seen as a safe harbor amid the coming storm.

“This isn’t about morals or ethics,” writes OilPrice’s Alex Kimani. “It’s about the free market. Sustainable stocks are outperforming everything else because they are the new safe haven—one that makes money while de-risking from the looming climate threat.”



Last year, Musk said that “Tesla Energy is becoming a distributed global utility and could outgrow the automotive business.”

It’s currently far from being the case.

As of last quarter, Tesla’s automotive business was bringing in over $7.6 billion compared to $550 million for its energy business.

But after years of decline, the company just started to turn its solar business around, and its energy storage business is hitting records every quarter.

Tesla’s energy division could be the company’s next massive growth opportunity.

Electrek’s Take

Obviously, I’m not saying that Tesla Energy is going to outgrow Tesla Motors anytime soon, but I think that people are going to start seeing Tesla Energy as more than just a side business for Tesla and a way to bailout SolarCity investors.

There are a few things that are going to drive Tesla Energy in 2021 and elevate the business to a whole new level.

Tesla Solar Roof is going to become a massive product.

We have been reporting on how Tesla went on a hiring spree of roofers and solar roof installers over the last year.

After a hard first few years of tuning the product and the installation process, we are starting to see improvements and with a large workforce to install them, I can see Tesla installing hundreds of solar roofs per week during the second half of 2021.

As for energy storage products, Powerwall basically has infinite demand right now. The growth of the product is solely dependent on battery supply and Tesla’s ability to ramp up production.

Megapack also has a massive backlog of orders from electric utilities, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Tesla can deploy an average of over 1 GWh of energy storage per quarter in 2021.

Tesla’s new Autobidder product is going to help manage all that new storage capacity and optimize its value.

When you add to that Tesla’s more traditional solar rooftop retrofit business, I think 2021 is going to be a big year for Tesla Energy.

The solar subscription business is a great idea, but it is a big burden financially for Tesla. With the company’s new strong balance sheet, it’s going to be a lot easier to support that and ramp it up. https://electrek.co/2020/12/29/tesla-tsla-next-phase-massive-growth-energy-division/


Full Report

Privatizing the Risks and Not Just the Profits: 

How to TRULY Retire Coal Plants and Fossil Fuel Assets Early AND More Equitably 

As Harvard Professor Ari Peskoe reminds us

While several PUCs have used the term “regulatory compact” as a shorthand description of regulation, no court or PUC has concluded that a utility is legally entitled to relief, such as cost recovery, under a “regulatory compact.” On the contrary, PUCs and courts have explicitly rejected such arguments.  

Blog Post


Dig deeper on the regulatory compact at 


Listen to John Farrell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance and Clean Energy Action Senior Advisor Leslie Glustrom discuss how we can equitably transition to a clean energy future here