Federal energy officials are looking ahead to 2020 and predicting a continued trend of less generation coming from coal and more from natural gas.

In the latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration forecast coal generation to dip to 26 percent in 2019 and 24 percent in 2020, down from 28 percent last year.

"EIA expects the U.S. total utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas-fired power plants to rise from 35 percent in 2018 to 37 percent in 2020," the report said. "The nuclear share of generation was 19 percent in 2018, and EIA forecasts that it will be about the same share in 2020" if not a bit lower because of the planned retirement of generating units at the Pilgrim and Three Mile Island nuclear plants.

EIA also expects wind and non-hydro renewables to play bigger roles. "Non-hydropower renewables provided 10 percent of generation in 2018 [and] are expected to provide 13 percent in 2020. In 2019, EIA expects wind's annual share of generation will exceed hydropower's share for the first time."

Hydropower's share of generation was 7 percent in 2018, and EIA predicts it will remain the same in 2019 and 2020.

The agency sees reduced activity in another indicator of coal performance. "In both 2019 and in 2020, EIA expects total U.S. coal production to decline by three percent and seven percent, respectively, because of anticipated declines in both exports and domestic consumption.

"The 2020 forecast production of 680 million short tons (MMst) would be the first time annual production totaled less than 700 MMst since 1978," the report said.

In 2020, EIA expects drivers to pay a bit more for gasoline but not as much as in 2018. "U.S. regular gasoline retail prices will average $2.47 per gallon in 2019 and $2.62 in 2020…which would be a decrease from an average of $2.73 per gallon in 2018."

EIA, an agency within the Department of Energy, is unaffected by the partial government shutdown in releasing its regular reports. DOE is among the federal agencies for which Congress has already passed a fiscal year 2019 spending bill.

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