Electric power production in the US peaked in 2007. Slight decrease since then. (So The Crash may have started it, but other factors kept it going.) The decrease is more noticeable if you factor in per capita.
So there’s no real need to build a bunch of power plants, of any type, to add to the grid for the most part. (Certain growing areas excluded.) So we’re talking about replacement for the most part here. If a utility is thinking about upgrading/replacing something, the coal plants are going to be high on the list.
Note that there’s a small number of businesses and individuals adding their own solar to reduce some power costs, still relying on the grid for the rest. Walmart has been adding solar panels to the roofs of many of their stores, for example. (And if Walmart is doing it, the numbers have got to be good.)
This inroad into the already shrinking demand for power from utilities is not making them happy. So several state legislatures are putting in laws that penalize people for adding solar panels. John Oliver did a nice segment on this.
Yeah, coal is going to go away (and that’s of course an exaggeration). But natural gas is still a good investment so that’s the current winner as far as the utilities are concerned. Renewable beating coal isn’t the big story. It doesn’t take much to beat coal.
Are those coal jobs coming back? No. And the number one reason by far is automation. Reduced demand for coal is a far second. You’d have to be a Luddite to think that coal jobs are coming back.