In New Record, Solar and Wind Generated More Electricity Than Coal for First 5 Months of Year
Solar and wind power generation has set a new record, with more power generated from those renewables than coal for the first five months of 2023, according to Energy Information Administration (EIA) data, as CBS News reported.
It’s the first time solar and wind production has surpassed coal for five months straight, industry publication E&E News said.
“From a production-cost perspective, renewables are the cheapest thing to use — wind and solar. So, we’re going to see more and more of these records,” said Ram Rajagopal, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, as reported by CBS News.
EIA data showed solar and wind out-producing coal for the first three months of the year, but the numbers for April and May are only preliminary, according to EIA spokesperson Chris Higginbotham.
“Our official estimates from the Electric Power Monthly show that combined electricity generation from wind and solar exceeded generation from coal in January, February and March,” Higginbotham said, as E&E News reported. “Our real-time data, which is subject to revision, indicate that trend continued in April and May.”
If hydroelectric power is added to the calculations, the record extends to more than six months, with the renewables streak for surpassing coal beginning last October, the EIA said, as reported by CBS News.
As recently as 2008, nearly half of the country’s electricity was generated by coal, but it has been declining steadily ever since, replaced by renewables and natural gas, E&E News reported.
“As electricity providers generate more electricity from renewable sources, we see electricity generated from coal decline over the next year and a half,” EIA Administrator Joe DeCarolis said in May, according to an EIA press release. “We expect that the United States will generate less electricity from coal this year than in any year this century.”
An additional 22.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind capacity were added in the past year ending in May, an EIA report from earlier this month said.
Ending coal generation once and for all can only do good things for the climate. Though it comprises around one-fifth of the energy grid, coal use makes up more than half of the greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The expansion of renewables has been given a boost by the Inflation Reduction Act, but getting green power sources hooked up to the U.S. electrical grid has been a tedious process.
According to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report, on average, a renewables project that came online last year had waited five years between its request to connect to the grid and the start of its commercial operations. Between 2000 and 2007, the wait was less than two years.
According to the report, 1,350 GW of capacity from more than 10,000 projects are waiting to be connected to the grid, most of them renewables.
“[T]here is this concern that capacity is not coming online fast enough, not because it isn’t economic, but because the interconnection process is really clogged at this time,” said Metin Celebi, an analyst who tracks the industry at the Brattle Group, as reported by E&E News.