Coal Still Ahead Of Natural Gas In State By State Generation

Sep 11, 2018

Most prevalent utility-scale electricity generation fuel by state, 2007 and 2017
Credit U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly

In 2017, coal remained the most common fuel source by state percentage, leading in 18 states — a surprising fact given it’s fallen behind natural gas in overall generation across the country. A report from the Energy Information Administration shows the gap, but while coal holds a lead in state generation, the gap is slimming.

Just a decade ago, nearly 30 states relied on coal. Since then, natural gas became the majority generator in five more states, nuclear in three, and hydropower in two. Owen Comstock, analyst with the EIA and author of the report, pointed to Arizona, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

“Those are states where coal has gone down so much that now it’s second to nuclear.” Comstock said, “so, it’s not so much that nuclear increased to the extent that it surpassed coal, it’s more that coal came down.”

In several other states, hydropower and natural gas have both surpassed coal. Comstock said some may be surprised wind or solar didn’t rank.

"You might think of places in the Midwest that have a lot of wind turbines that wind might be number one in those states.” Comstock said, "but that’s not the case yet. That’ll probably change soon.”

He said 2019 could be the first year where wind beats out hydropower. Comstock said he expects to see coal lose its status as most common fuel source by state in the near future.