Renewable Energy Sources Dominate New Electrical Generating Capacity in US in 2020

by | Jan 7, 2021

Renewable energy sources dominated new US electrical generating capacity additions in the first 11 months of 2020, according to data just released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The data, reviewed by the Sun Day Campaign, shows that renewable energy sources such as biomass, hydropower, solar and wind accounted for almost 71% of new utility-scale capacity.

If FERC’s projections prove accurate, over the next three years, renewable energy generating capacity should account for comfortably more than a quarter of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity – increasing from 23.52% today to 27.46% three years hence. Meanwhile, coal’s share will drop to 17.37% (from 19.97% today), nuclear to 7.92% (from 8.61%), and oil to 2.78% (from 3.31%). Natural gas’ share will also dip slightly to 44.31%, compared to 44.41% now.


Year-to-date, wind and solar have each contributed more new generating capacity than has natural gas. Natural gas accounted for 29% of the total.

Moreover, in the six months from June through November 2020, all of the new generating capacity added was provided by wind, solar and hydropower.

Renewable energy sources now account for 23.52% of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity and continue to expand their lead over coal (19.97%). Wind’s share  (9.42%) of generating capacity has now surpassed that of nuclear power (8.61%) while solar (4.16%) has edged out oil (3.31%). The generating capacity of wind and solar is now 13.58% of the nation’s total, and that does not include distributed (e.g., rooftop) solar.

For perspective, five years ago, FERC reported that installed renewable energy generating capacity was 17.53% of the nation’s total with wind at 6.03% (now 9.42%) and solar at 1.16% (now 4.16%). By comparison, in August 2015, coal’s share was 26.42% (now 19.97 %), nuclear was 9.18% (now 8.61%), and oil was 3.86% (now 3.31%). Only natural gas has shown any growth among non-renewable sources, expanding modestly from a 42.84% share five years ago to 44.41% today.

In addition, FERC data suggest wind and solar combined will provide nearly three times as much new generating capacity as natural gas over the next three years.

While hydropower, geothermal, and biomass also are all projected to experience net growth, the generating capacities of coal and oil are projected to plummet. In fact, FERC reports no new coal capacity in the pipeline over the next three years and just 6 MW of new oil-based capacity. Nuclear power is likewise forecast to drop sharply, by more than 4% of its currently operating capacity.

In total, the mix of all renewables will add more than 61,707 MW of net new generating capacity to the nation’s total by November 2023 while the net new capacity from  natural gas, coal, oil, and nuclear power combined will actually drop by more than 10,500 MW.

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