A new analysis of federal data shows that wind and solar alone could generate more electricity in the United States than nuclear and coal over the coming year, which could be critical in reducing the country’s reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
The Sun Day Campaign, a nonprofit that promotes sustainable energy development, highlighted a recently released US Energy Information Administration (EIA) review finding that renewable sources as a whole—including solar, wind, biomass, and others—provided 22.6% of US electricity over the first 10 months of 2022, a pace set to beat the agency’s projection for the full year.
“Taken together, during the first ten months of 2022, renewable energy sources comfortably out-produced both coal and nuclear power by 16.62% and 27.39% respectively,” the SUN DAY Campaign noted Tuesday. “However, natural gas continues to dominate with a 39.4% share of total generation.”
The new EIA figures show that electricity output from solar alone jumped by more than 26% in the first 10 months of last year. In just October, the SUN DAY Campaign observed that solar’s output was 31.68% greater than the previous year, with a CAGR that strongly eclipsed that of every other energy source.
The data comes amid the broader context of US failures to sufficiently accelerate renewable energy production and phase out fossil fuel use, which is helping push greenhouse gas emissions to better levels globally.
Gas production, a major contributor to highly potent methane pollution, likely broke an annual record in the US last year, according to the latest federal data. One recent analysis found that the US is currently pursuing more new oil pipeline capacity by length than any other country.
The Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a site created by a group of scientists to analyze nations’ emissions targets and progress, rates the US as “insufficient” overall, arguing the country’s “climate policies and action in 2030 need substantial improvements to be consistent with the 1.5°C temperature limit.”
CAT has also welcomed the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a law that’s set to boost the US build-out of renewable energy infrastructure.
“However, while the largest share of the IRA is directed to clean technologies, it also includes several concessions for the fossil fuel industry such as requiring minimum acreages of public lands for drilling leases,” CAT notes. “These concessions contradict President Biden’s promise on his first day in office to ban new oil and gas drilling on federal lands.”
By the end of 2017, installed generating capacity at utility-scale solar facilities totaled 30.30 GW – roughly eight times (7.77%) greater than that of five years ago in its December 2012 “Energy Infrastructure Update.” Solar is now 2.55% of total US-installed utility-scale generating capacity. Moreover, distributed solar in the US solar capacity is significantly higher – perhaps 30% or more.