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Natural gas vis-a-vis coal prices for energy generation in the U.S. 1980-2019

In the last couple decades, the price of natural gas used for electricity generation has increased slightly to 2.89 U.S. dollars per million British thermal units (Btu) in 2019. The price of coal was about 2.02 U.S. dollars per million Btu. The cost of using some fossil fuels to generate electricity has been recently found to be more expensive than renewable energy. Natural gas is cheapest in regions like the Coastal Plain, where natural gas production is high.

Shift Away from Conventional Energy Sources

Although renewable technologies were once thought to be very expensive, the rapid advancement of these technologies have quickly rendered the cost of energy generation at a level on par to conventional fossil fuels. The aging coal fleet is a prime example of the increasing necessity to switch to carbon neutral technologies. Older coal plants are dealing with increasing maintenance costs as well as environmental regulations forcing the installation of pollution controls. Demand for natural gas is also impacting coal demand. Unlike wind and solar resources, natural gas resources seem to be sensitive to carbon prices.

Cost of coal and natural gas for electric generation in the United States from 1980 to 2019*

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Release date

March 2020


United States

Survey time period

1980 to 2019

Supplementary notes

* Including taxes; prices are not adjusted for inflation Through 2001, data are for electric utilities only. Beginning in 2002, data also include independent power producers, and electric generating plants in the commercial and industrial sectors. Beginning in 2013, data cover all regulated generating plants, and plants whose total fossil-fueled nameplate generating capacity is 50 megawatts of more for coal, and 200 megawatts or more for natural gas.

** Includes a small amount of supplemental gaseous fuels. Data through 2000 also include a small amount of blast furnace gas and other gases derived from fossil fuels.

Receipts are purchases of fuel.

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* Prices do not include sales tax.

Statistics on "Coal energy in the U.S."

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