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Coal energy in the U.S. - statistics & facts

For over a century coal has been among the main sources of electricity generation in the United States. Although it lost its position as largest contributor to the power mix to natural gas in 2016, coal energy is still widely used around the country. In fact, there is a large number of U.S. utilities using coal not committed to retire by 2030 despite greater efforts and incentives by the government to reduce reliance on this heavily polluting fossil fuel.

Coal consumption within the electricity sector

The electric power sector is by far the largest consumer of coal. As the use of coal power has declined over the past decade, so too decreased overall U.S. coal energy consumption with figures falling below 10,000 trillion British thermal units for the first time in 2020. Coal power plants are usually more heavily used in the summer months, when electricity demand is higher due to greater need for air conditioning. Monthly coal energy consumption in the U.S. reached a 2-year high in July 2021, as unusually hot temperatures and higher gas prices led to greater use of coal-fired stations.

Costs of coal for electricity generation and regional variances

Among the reasons for why the power sector is holding on to coal is the comparatively cheap cost of coal. A look at natural gas vis a vis coal prices shows that coal prices are less volatile and often notably lower than for natural gas, with the latter tied to oil production and as such the oil market. Texas tops the ranking for U.S. coal power capacity by state, although it is not the state with the most number of plants and is also not serviced by the leading U.S. coal power generating utilities. PacifiCorp, which mainly provides electricity to customers in Oregon and Utah, generates over 30 terawatt hours of coal power every year, more than any other utility in the country.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 21 most important statistics relating to "Coal energy in the U.S.".


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