After 135 years, the consumed energy from renewable sources overcame that of coal in 2019, and so humanity went through a historic year. Truth is, this result has been years in the making, as the legislation is pushing for the phasing out of the burning of coal, and at the same time, incentives for investing in solar and wind power were given. Coal was in steady decline since 2008, while renewables are rising since the early 2000s.
In 2019, the consumption of energy coming from renewable sources accounted for 11.5 quadrillion BTUs, while coal was left behind with 11.3 quadrillion BTUs. According to the graphs shared by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the last time the two were comparable was back in the 1880s. Of course, the two types of energy sources won’t even compete next year, as coal will drop further down, and renewables will rise at new heights.
The key to achieving this milestone was to phase out coal from the transportation industry, as well as all commercial and residential applications. Coal is still used for the production of electric power, and sees some use in industrial applications too. Power generation is a demanding field that is gradually adopting solar, geothermal, waste, hydro, and wind energy harvesting systems, but we haven’t reached a tipping point there yet.
While this is great news, we must not forget that this is not nearly enough to turn things around when it comes to fighting climate change. There’s already too much CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere, and even if we managed to somehow phase out all fossil fuels completely tomorrow, we would still have to do a lot of work to reverse the damage and capture back that excess CO2 from the air. All that said, EIA is reporting on the first exciting results of us doing baby steps when we should be leaping forward instead.