US coal deliveries for power sector declined by 22% in 2020

18 May 2021

The US electric power sector received 428 million short tons (MMst) of coal in 2020, the lowest annual level for that sector since the US Energy Information Administration began publishing this data in 2007. US coal shipments were down 22% in 2020 from 2019 levels, driven by lower electricity demand in response to  the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued decline in US coal fired generation capacity. 

67% of the coal delivered to the US electric power sector in 2020 was shipped either completely or in part by rail; the remainder was shipped by river barge, truck, or other methods. Almost all U.S. coal comes from four regions – the Powder River Basin (Wyoming and Montana), the Illinois Basin (Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky), central Appalachia (Kentucky and West Virginia) and northern Appalachia (Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia). 

Coal shipments by truck and coal received by coal-fired power plants built near coal mines declined less in 2020 than other transportation modes, falling by 18% and 19% from 2019 levels, respectively. Coal shipped by waterways fell 20% from 2019 levels. Rail shipments in all forms, including multimode, decreased the most, at 24%.

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