Government forecasts released on Tuesday revealed that U.S. power plants are expected to consume less coal next year than at any point in the last 42 years, according to CNN.
Despite Trump’s actions for coal, which include cutting environmental regulations and placing a former coal lobbyist as the head of the EPA, cleaner and cheaper alternatives are pushing coal out of the market.
“It’s just simple economics. Coal is not cost competitive,” Frank Nicklaus, a partner at Greentech Capital Advisors, a niche investment bank focused on sustainable technology, said.
Coal is expected to see its market share drop from 27 percent today to just 22 percent by 2020 while renewable energy’s market share is projected to climb from 17 percent last year to 19 percent by 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
“Renewables have become incredibly competitive. The cost of solar and wind has plummeted — and will continue to decline,” Nicklaus said.
By 2020, Texas will obtain more of its electricity from onshore, renewable wind than from coal, according to a recent forecast by Rystad Energy.
“Texas is just one of many red states that have recently ‘gone green’ by harnessing their great wind generation potential,” the head of gas market research at Rystad Energy, Carlos Torres-Diaz, wrote.
Yet, this spells out disaster for many communities in Appalachia who have long relied on coal power plants and mines for their livelihoods. Since Trump took office, about 15 percent of U.S. coal fired power plant units have been retired. Another 10 percent is expected to follow between 2019 and 2020.
“People are left with no resources. There’s not a Walmart or Burger King for 30 miles where they can get alternative employment,” Neil Chatterjee, the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said. “It is really, really difficult for me to watch.”