Electric Generation in the US

By Megan Geherin

America isn’t generating electricity the way it did two decades ago. Recently natural gas has passed coal as the country’s leading source of electric generation. Renewables such as wind and solar have also made small but quick gains. However, each state has its own position with regards to the mix of electric generation sources.

For example, Nevada was earlier than many other states for natural gas generation surpassed coal as the top source of electricity in 2005. Since then coal’s role in Nevada’s power mix has continued to dwindle. In Iowa, wind power now makes up nearly 40 percent of the electricity that is produced. Meanwhile in West Virginia coal is still the source of nearly all electricity generation.

Overall fossil fuels still dominate electric generation sources in the United States.  However, the shift from coal to natural gas is becoming more prevalent. In 2017 coal was the main source of electricity for 18 states. This was down from a total of 32 states in 2001. This shift has helped to lower carbon dioxide emissions and other pollution over the years.

Although switching from coal to gas is a great idea for short term solutions, it is not a long-term solution according to experts to curb emissions and avoid dangerous global warming.  Clean energy such as solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and biomass sources are a better long-term solution for the environment.  And as an additional benefit, the cost of these generation sources is dropping.  According to The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017 solar and onshore wind are actually the cheapest energy sources. Reports show that in 2017 wind turbine prices had an average price of $0.06 per kWh. By the end of this year IRENA estimates “All renewable energy technologies should be competitive on price with fossil fuels”. The cost of generation based on fossil fuels can range from $0.05 to $0.17 per kWh. It is projected that within the next two years onshore winds and solar could be delivering electric for as little as $0.03 per kWh.

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