A recent U.S. Energy Information Administration report, Short-Term Energy Outlook, notes that in 2020, nuclear power plants generated more electricity in the United States than coal-fired plants for the first time ever. Last year also marked the first time that coal generation was not the first or second largest U.S. electricity producer in more than 70 years.
Two factors led to the decrease in coal-fired generation, according to the EIA: one is the drop in the number of operating coal-fired plants, and the other is the lower utilization of those remaining coal-fired plants as the nation moves toward cleaner energy production. Coal, however, is not to be abandoned yet, according to the EIA.
The next couple of years will see changes in energy production, according to the EIA report. The EIA believes that "increases in natural gas prices will make coal more competitive in the electric power sector. This expected increase in coal's utilization more than offsets the upcoming retirement of 2.8 GW of coal capacity in 2021 and another 8.5 GW in 2022," based on information reported to the EIA by coal-fired plant owners and developers.