U.S. coal production is projected to decline by 3 percent to about 729 million short tons in 2019 compared to 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s short-term outlook released on Jan. 15. The agency forecasts 2020 production to reach 680 million tons, the first time that annual production will fall below 700 million tons since 1978. This decrease is attributed to weak competitiveness of coal in the power sector compared to natural gas, as well as lower demand for U.S. coal exports.
- Power sector coal consumption is projected to decline by 8 percent in 2019 and 7 percent in 2020, reflecting increasing shares of electricity generation from natural gas and renewable energy sources.
- While U.S. coal exports in 2018 were about 20 percent higher than 2017 levels, marking the fourth time that annual exports surpassed 110 million tons, the agency projects exports to drop, reaching 94 million tons in 2020 as some market conditions favoring exports will diminish.
- Coal is forecast to represent 24 percent of the power mix in 2020, down from 28 percent in 2018, while natural gas will continue to dominate, increasing to 37 percent from 35 percent over the same period.