U.S. Electricity From Renewables Surpasses Coal and Nuclear for First Time
According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), electricity generation from renewable sources surpassed coal and nuclear in the U.S. for the first time last year.
The increase in renewables was driven primarily by solar and wind, which made up 14 percent of the country’s electricity in 2022, reported The Associated Press. Six percent of electricity produced domestically came from hydropower, while geothermal and biomass sources made up less than one percent.
“I’m happy to see we’ve crossed that threshold, but that is only a step in what has to be a very rapid and much cheaper journey,” said Stephen Porder, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and assistant provost for sustainability at Brown University, as The Associated Press reported.
California led utility-scale solar production with 26 percent. Texas was the next-largest solar producer with 16 percent, followed by North Carolina with eight percent.
Texas led total U.S. wind generation with 26 percent, while Iowa generated 10 percent and Oklahoma followed just behind with nine percent.
President and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy Gregory Wetstone said in many parts of the country renewable energy was now the least expensive new electricity source.
“This booming growth is driven largely by economics,” Wetstone said, as reported by The Associated Press. “Over the past decade, the levelized cost of wind energy declined by 70 percent, while the levelized cost of solar power has declined by an even more impressive 90 percent.”
According to projections from the EIA, the share of wind power in the U.S. will increase from 11 percent in 2022 to 12 percent this year, while solar will go up from four to five percent.
Natural gas is predicted to hold steady at 39 percent of the total energy mix, while coal is expected to decrease to 17 percent this year, down from 20 percent in 2022.
“When you look at the data, natural gas has been a major driver for lowering greenhouse gas emissions from electricity because it’s been largely replacing coal-fired power plants,” said Director of Research for the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University Melissa Lott, as The Associated Press reported. “Moving forward, you can’t have emissions continuing to go up, you need to bring them down quickly.”
Lott said the Inflation Reduction Act — which included $369 billion in investments for clean energy and the climate — was expected to speed up renewable energy projects and had influenced the number of clean energy projects that went online last year.
“[W]hile much remains to be done to achieve our nation’s climate targets, with the enactment of the Inflation Reduction Act, we now have a clear pathway toward the clean energy future that Americans want and climate scientists say we desperately need,” said Wetstone, as reported by The Hill.
“The legislation’s landmark clean energy tax platform is expected to further accelerate U.S. renewable energy development, create hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs, and drive a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030,” Wetstone added.
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