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Renewable energy has now produced more electricity in the U.S. than coal for 40 days straight

By: Sophie Lewis

Lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic have lowered air pollution, allowed wild animals to roam —  and moved the U.S. one step closer to clean energy. 

During the economic slowdown that has resulted from stay-at-home orders, renewable energy is getting a boost. Power generation from sources like solar, wind and hydropower have overtaken coal-fired power in the United States for a record 40 straight days.

According to a report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), using data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), April's boost not only comes from low gas prices, warmer weather and more renewables added to the grid — but also from a massive dip in electricity demand as Americans stay home. IEEFA said the findings mark an important "milestone" in the country's transition to clean energy.

This is the first time renewables have overtaken coal in electricity generation every day in a single month. It measured the time between March 25 and May 3, but the trend is expected to continue. 

The longest continuous stretch previously was April 2019, which saw nine consecutive days of renewables overtaking coal. In total, renewables beat coal on just 38 days last year. 

The high cost of coal typically means it is the first fuel choice cut by utility companies when demand is down; renewables are cheaper to operate and often backed by clean-energy regulations. In April, coal-fired generation held just 15.3% of the market share, a massive decrease. 

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