According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are still 15 states in the U.S. where the proportion of coal power exceeds that of other power sources in 2021. Twenty years ago, in 2001, coal was the largest source of electricity generation in 32 states. Since coal power peaked in 2007, the United States has gradually shifted from coal-fired power generation to natural gas and renewables.
In 2001, natural gas was the largest source of electricity generation in seven states. That number has grown to 23 states by 2021, driven by widespread retirements of coal-fired power plants and new construction of natural gas plants. Wind and solar power generation also grew during this period. Coal plants are not economically competitive, while natural gas and renewables are relatively cheap.
Many coal plants in the United States were built in the 1970s and 1980s. Many coal plants have closed as coal plants age and face price pressure from natural gas and renewables, as well as emissions regulations. Ohio and Pennsylvania have seen the largest declines in coal-fired generation over the past 20 years; both states have switched from coal to natural gas as the largest source of electricity during that time.
As coal-fired plants are retired, there has been a surge of natural gas and renewables, including wind and solar. Technological advances, namely horizontal drilling for shale gas and hydraulic fracturing, have boosted U.S. natural gas production, and competitive natural gas prices have helped gas-fired power plants become an alternative to coal. Texas, Florida, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio see the largest increases between 2001 and 2021, with natural gas accounting for the largest share of the electricity generation mix in these five states in 2021.
In 2001, Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota were the three states with the most electricity generated by coal-fired power plants, and by 2021, wind power has become the largest source of electricity. These three states are home to the richest onshore wind resources in the United States.
Although over the past 20 years, coal power has relegated to second or third place in many states. But in 2021, coal still accounts for more than 70% of intrastate electricity generation in four states: West Virginia (91%), Missouri (75%), Wyoming (74%) and Kentucky (71%). Three of these states (West Virginia, Wyoming, and Kentucky) are the largest producers of coal-fired power in the United States.