Special Report

10 States Burning the Most Coal

7. West Virginia
> 2014 coal electricity generation:
77,510 GWh
> 2014 total electricity generation:81,162 GWh
> Coal as pct. total electricity generation: 95.5%
> Natural Gas as pct. electricity generation: 0.8%

Last year, West Virginia generated the 19th most energy out of all states, producing roughly 81 thousand GWh. The state, however, generated the seventh most energy from coal, or 77,510 GWh. This amounted to 95.5% of West Virginia’s electricity generation, making West Virginia the most coal-dependent state in the country. This may not be surprising given the scope of the state’s coal mining industry. The state’s Appalachian Plateau region contains rich natural gas and coal deposits, and no state east of the Mississippi yields more coal each year than West Virginia. Roughly a quarter of the state’s coal stays in West Virginia, and the rest is shipped elsewhere to be turned into electricity. Consequently, while the state has just 0.5% of the country’s population, its resources are used to generate about 5% of total U.S. energy production.

6. Pennsylvania
> 2014 coal electricity generation:
80,067 GWh
> 2014 total electricity generation:221,709 GWh
> Coal as pct. total electricity generation: 36.1%
> Natural Gas as pct. electricity generation: 23.7%

Home to the coal-rich Appalachian Mountains, Pennsylvania is one of the largest coal-producing states in the country. Pennsylvania exported nearly $1.6 billion worth of coal in 2014 alone. The state is also one of the biggest consumers of coal in the country, and much of the coal mined in Pennsylvania stays there. The state generated 80,067 GWh from coal in 2014, the sixth highest amount of any state in the country. Despite its high coal consumption, Pennsylvania has a relatively diverse energy mix. Just over 36% of the Pennsylvania’s energy came from coal, while 35.5% came from nuclear power, and 23.7% came from natural gas. Between nuclear power, natural gas, and coal, Pennsylvania is the leading energy producer in the eastern U.S.

5. Kentucky
> 2014 coal electricity generation:
83,497 GWh
> 2014 total electricity generation:90,737 GWh
> Coal as pct. total electricity generation: 92.0%
> Natural Gas as pct. electricity generation: 2.7%

With 92% of Kentucky’s electricity coming from coal, only West Virginia relies more heavily on coal to keep the lights on. The state is the third largest producer of coal behind West Virginia and Wyoming, and one out of every four coal mines in the country can be found within the state. Roughly two-thirds of all coal mined in the state is exported. Apart from a small amount of hydroelectric energy, the state has almost no renewable energy generation at all.


4. Illinois
> 2014 coal electricity generation:
87,371 GWh
> 2014 total electricity generation:202,352 GWh
> Coal as pct. total electricity generation: 43.2%
> Natural Gas as pct. electricity generation: 2.7%

The fifth most populous state in the country, Illinois is a large consumer of energy. The state generated, 87.4 million MwH from 57.4 million tons of coal last year. Over the course of the last decade, nuclear power and coal have been alternating as the state’s the leading energy source. Last year, however, more than 48% of the Illinois’ electricity came from nuclear power, while 43.2% came from coal. No other state in the country derives more electricity from nuclear power, and only three other states derived more electricity from coal in 2014.