Feds predict coal-fired electricity on the decline

Dec 16, 2013

The federal government is predicting that despite a recent uptick in consumption, coal will lose its dominance of the electricity market by 2030.

Natural gas will slowly edge out coal as the country’s leading source of electricity generation, according to the Energy Information Administration’s latest forecast.

In a press conference announcing the outlook, Coal and Electric Power Division Director Alan Beamon said coal is expected to make a rebound in the short-term, but that it won’t last.

“We don’t see the price of gas getting high enough to make new coal plants attractive. So once you’ve utilized the ones you have, and that you keep, that you don’t decide to retire, you sort of max your coal use and most of the new capacity additions will be in natural gas and some renewables spurred on by other programs. So gas just keeps growing while coal sort of hits a plateau and doesn’t grow anymore.”

The agency predicts that by 2030 natural gas will provide 35 percent of the country’s electricity, while coal will provide just 30 percent. That’s down from 42 percent in 2011, and even higher levels in the first half of the decade.

The energy forecast comes out annually. Last year the agency predicted that natural gas would surpass coal by 2040 -- a decade later than this year’s projection.