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Report: Coal Production to Spike 19% Next Year

Coal production is expected to increase next year after a coronavirus slump, according to the Department of Energy. (Dylan Brown/E&E News)

Coal production is expected to increase next year after a coronavirus slump, according to the Department of Energy. (Dylan Brown/E&E News)

By Miranda Willson, Energywire, E&E News

Coal-fired power generation and production are expected to rebound next year after having fallen sharply in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said yesterday.

Coal production will increase 19% next year as natural gas production and use dips slightly, EIA said in its monthly short-term energy outlook.

Overall coal production, however, will still be lower than it was in 2019, as production dropped 26% this year because of reduced electricity demand that forced some mines to idle or close during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the agency.

As a share of electric power generation, coal has been declining for the past decade, constituting 20% of electricity generation nationwide this year. In 2021, however, coal will make up 24% of electricity use, the same percentage as in 2019 prior to the coronavirus slowdown, according to EIA.

Next year’s uptick in coal consumption will be in response to a drop in natural gas use as a share of electric power generation, EIA said. Natural gas will make up 39% of all electricity use this year, but will decrease to 34% next year due to higher gas prices this winter and next year.

“We estimate that average natural gas prices in 2021 will be up more than $1 from 2020 levels,” EIA Administrator Linda Capuano said in a statement.

Renewable power will make up 22% of electricity generation in 2021, up from 20% this year, according to the outlook. The electricity sector will add 7.3 gigawatts of wind capacity and 11.8 GW of utility-scale solar capacity in 2021, EIA predicts.

After reaching a 2 ½-year low in May, oil production will steadily increase in the second half of 2020, the agency said.

“However, we expect U.S. production to generally decline through mid-2021 as production from new drilling activity will not be large enough to offset declines from existing wells,” Capuano said.

With overall energy use projected to grow next year as the country recovers from the pandemic, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions will increase by 5.4% in 2021 from 2020 levels, EIA forecasts. But emissions next year will still be about 5.6% lower than they were in 2019.


Reprinted from Energywire with the permission of E&E News. Copyright 2020. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net.