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US coal production will fall by 22% in 2020, as coronavirus-related stay-at-home orders drag down demand for electricity and coal mines have been idled for extended periods as a result of Covid-19.

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) says in its short-term energy outlook that the country’s coal production is forecast to total 537-million tons in 2020, down from 153-million tons in 2019.Last week, two US coal miners announced the closure of their mines in response to the fast-spreading virus pandemic, which has shut nearly entire economies in some countries. Nasdaq-listed Alliance Resources Partners announced that it would cease coal production at all its Illinois basin mines, as demand for coal had been crushed by the actions taken to combat Covid-19.

NYSE-listed Consol Energy also said on March 30 it would curtailed production for two weeks at its Bailey mine, in the Pennsylvania Complex, for two weeks.Cash-strapped Murray Energy has also idled mines.

Total coal consumption is forecast to decrease by 19%, driven primarily by electric power sector demand, which will fall by 107-million tons (20%).

The largest impact on electricity demand will be felt in the commercial sector, where forecast retail sales of electricity will fall by 4.7% in 2020, owing to the closure of many businesses, EIA says. Sales of electricity to the industrial sector will fall by 4.2% in 2020, as many factories cut back production. To the residential sector sales will dip by 0.8% as reduced power usage resulting from milder winter and summer weather is offset by increased household electricity consumption as much of the population stays at home.

Total coal exports will also decline on the back of an economic slowdown in Covid-19-hit Europe.

EIA forecasts that total US electric power sector generation will decline by 3% in 2020. Renewable energy sources account for the largest proportion of new generating capacity in 2020, driving EIA’s forecast that renewable generation by the electric power sector will grow by 11% this year. Renewable energy is typically dispatched whenever it is available because of its low operating cost.