Renewable Energy Sources Lead New Generating Capacity

According to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the first eleven months of 2019, the mix of renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) is now in first place in the race for new U.S. generating capacity added in 2019.

FERC’s latest monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report (with data through Nov. 30, 2019) reveals renewable sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for 8,784 MW of new generating capacity through the end of November. That is 8 percent more than that of natural gas (7,819 MW), nuclear (155 MW), oil (77 MW), and coal (62 MW) combined. Combined, renewable sources provided 52 percent of new generating capacity through the first eleven months of 2019 and seem poised to increase their share once the final December numbers are released.

Renewables have now also surpassed 22 percent (22.03 percent) of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity, further expanding their lead over coal capacity (20.92 percent). Among renewables, wind can boast the largest installed electrical generating capacity, 8.52 percent of the U.S. total, followed by hydropower (8.43 percent), solar (3.43 percent), biomass (1.33 percent), and geothermal (0.32 percent).

Moreover, FERC foresees renewables dramatically expanding their lead over fossil fuels and nuclear power in terms of new capacity additions during the coming three years (December 2019 – November 2022). Net generating capacity additions (“proposed additions under construction” minus “proposed retirements”) for renewable sources total 49,926 MW; wind – 28,856 MW, solar – 19,156 MW, hydropower – 1,463 MW, biomass – 238 MW, and geothermal – 213 MW.

By comparison, net additions for natural gas total 23,233 MW while the installed capacities for coal, nuclear, and oil are projected to drop by 14,067 MW, 3,751 MW, and 2,751 MW respectively.

Thus, net new renewable energy capacity will be 18.7 times greater than that of fossil fuels and nuclear power combined (49,926 MW vs. 2,664 MW).

FERC’s projections are consistent with new projections released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The agency expects solar and wind to represent 76 percent (or almost 32 GW) of new capacity additions in 2020.

Wind will account for the largest share of these additions at 44 percent, followed by solar and natural gas at 32 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Operators have scheduled 18.5 GW of wind capacity to come online in 2020, surpassing the record level of 13.2 GW set in 2012. EIA expects 13.5 GW of solar capacity to come online in 2020, surpassing the previous annual record addition of 8 GW in 2016. Planned natural gas capacity additions for 2020 are only 9.3 GW. The remaining 2 percent comes from hydroelectric generators and battery storage.

In addition, in its latest “Short-Term Energy Outlook” report, EIA projects actual electrical generation by non-hydro renewables to increase by 32 percent between 2019 and 2021. Including hydropower, EIA forecasts renewables to provide 22 percent of the nation’s electrical generation in 2021.

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