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In-brief analysis
May 10, 2024

U.S. coal-fired electricity generation decreased in 2022 and 2023

lower 48 states annual average coal-fired generation by hour of dispatch

Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Hourly Electric Grid Monitor
Note: The chart series reflects the average electricity generation from coal for a given hour across one year; the data are reported in 24-hour increments for the U.S. Lower 48 states, based on local time.

Electricity generation from units that primarily consume coal in the U.S. Lower 48 states decreased for all hours of the day by about 23% between 2021 and 2023, according to our Form EIA-930, Hourly and Daily Balancing Authority Operations Report. Most of the decline occurred between 2022 and 2023, when coal-fired generation fell 19% and the average natural gas spot price at the Henry Hub decreased by more than 60%.

Several factors have accounted for reductions in coal-fired generation since 2021:

  • Coal capacity has decreased because operators have retired about 37 gigawatts, or 17% of the coal-fired fleet, since the beginning of 2021.
  • Natural gas-fired and solar generating capacity has increased.
  • Utilities or grid managers generally select the lowest cost power available at a given point, which in recent years has usually been wind, solar, and natural gas rather than coal.

Off-peak, coal-fired generation fell about 24% between 2021 and 2023, according to our data, due largely to natural gas-fired units displacing coal-fired units as an overnight source of electricity.

Balancing authorities, the organizations responsible for maintaining the U.S. electric grid, report the volume of electricity from electric generators by primary fuel source on Form EIA-930. Balancing authorities may not know actual fuel consumption. We collect actual fuel consumption for electricity generation on other EIA surveys and report these data by month in the Electric Power Monthly, which has a longer data lag.

Principal contributor: Chris Peterson