Renewable Energy Sources Account for More Than 18 Percent Domestic Electrical Generation

Renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) have accounted for over 18 percent of net domestic electrical generation during the first two-thirds of 2018, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

In addition, the latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” (with data through Aug. 31, 2018) reveals that solar and wind both showed strong growth with utility-scale solar expanding by 30.8 percent and wind by 16 percent compared to the first eight months of 2017. In fact, during the month of August 2018 alone, wind-generated electricity was 43.2 percent higher than a year earlier. Combined, wind and solar accounted for 9 percent of the nation’s electrical generation (wind – 6.6 percent, solar – 2.4 percent) and almost half (49.5 percent) of the total from all renewable energy sources.

Modest increases were also reported by EIA for geothermal and biomass, 5.2 percent and 1.8 percent respectively. Taken together, non-hydro renewables, including distributed solar, grew by 15.9 percent. However, a 5.3 percent drop in hydropower output netted an increase of only 6.3 percent in electrical generation by all renewables in the first two-thirds of 2018 compared to the same period in 2017.

That modest gain, though, continued to close the gap between renewables and coal with the latter dropping by 5.8 percent. Coal now provides 27 percent of the nation’s electrical generation compared to 30 percent a year ago. A decade earlier, coal’s share of U.S. electrical generation was over 48 percent.

The 4.7 percent increase in domestic electrical generation from all sources (including natural gas, up 14.4 percent and nuclear power, up 3.2 percent) limited renewables to increasing their share of the total to 18.2 percent, up from 17.9 percent a year earlier. However, the gradual return of hydropower output to historic levels following a drop in early 2018, coupled with continued growth rates for solar and wind, suggest that renewables’ share of the nation’s electrical generation will expand further during the balance of this year.

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