Renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydropower) dominated the new US power generation capacities in the first nine months of 2020. This comes from a review of the SUN DAY campaign published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Together, they made up nearly two-thirds, or about 64.1%, of the 16,886 MW of new utility-scale capacity added in the first three quarters of this year.
FERC’s latest monthly Energy Infrastructure Update (with data as of September 30, 2020) also found that natural gas accounted for 35.8% or 6,039 MW of the total, with 20 MW from coal and 5 MW from “other “Sources came from. No new nuclear, oil or geothermal capacity has been added since the beginning of the year.
The entire new generation capacity of 2,976 MW added in the summer was provided by solar energy (1,484 MW), wind power (1,468 MW) and hydropower (24 MW). In September alone, the entire new capacity for electricity generation in the USA was due to two new “wind units” (159 MW) and five solar units (36 MW).
Renewable energy sources now account for 23.3% of the country’s total installed generation capacity and further extend their lead over coal (20.0%). The generation capacity of just wind and sun is now more than 13.3% of the country’s total capacity, excluding decentralized or rooftop solar energy.
Five years ago, FERC reported that installed renewable energy generation capacity was 17.4% of the country’s total capacity, with wind at 5.9% (now 9.2%) and solar at 1.1% (now 4.1%) %) was. For comparison: In August 2015 the share of coal was 26.6% (now 20%), the share of nuclear power 9.2% (now 8.7%) and the oil share 3.9% (now 3.3%) . Only natural gas saw growth in non-renewable sources, rising from 42.8% five years ago to 44.5% today.
In addition, the FERC data suggests that the share of renewables in generating capacity is expected to increase significantly over the next three years through September 2023, while solar will grow from 32,801 MW. By comparison, the net growth for natural gas will only be 20,872 MW. Wind and sun together are expected to deliver almost three times as much new generation capacity as natural gas over the next three years.
Coal and oil generation capacities are expected to decrease by 22,346 MW and 5,023 MW, respectively. FERC reports no new coal capacity in the pipeline for the next three years and only 6 MW of new oil-based capacity. Nuclear power is also expected to decrease by 4,990 MW, or nearly 5% of its current operating capacity.
Overall, the mix of all renewable energies will increase the country’s net generating capacity by more than 61,400 MW by September 2023, while the new net capacity of natural gas, coal, oil and nuclear is expected to decrease by almost 11,500 MW.
If these figures hold, then renewable energy generation capacity should represent more than a quarter of the country’s total available installed generating capacity over the next three years, rising from 23.3% currently to 27.2% in three years. In the meantime, the share of coal will decrease from 8.7% to 17.5% to 20%, the share of nuclear power plants from 8.7% to 7.9% and the oil share from 3.3% to 2.8% . The share of natural gas will drop to 44.4% compared to 44.5% now.
For the past 20 months, FERC has regularly upgraded its renewable energy forecasts in its monthly Infrastructure reports. The first such forecast from FERC – which is included in their March 2019 report – predicts the addition of 24,560 MW wind and 12,048 MW solar over the next three years. In their most recent report, those projections had grown to 27,324 MW of new wind capacity and 32,801 MW of new solar energy over the next three years.
“There is no longer any doubt that renewable energy sources are already replacing coal, oil and nuclear power while they are hot on the heels of natural gas,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY campaign. “Given the election promises made by elected President Biden, this trend should not only continue in the years to come, it should accelerate significantly.”
News from the SUN DAY campaign