Washington DC – According to an analysis by the SUN DAY Campaign of data just released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), solar, wind, and hydropower accounted for nearly three-fifths (59.6%) of new capacity added to the U.S. electricity generation mix during the first quarter of 2019.
According to FERC’s latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” (with data through March 31, 2019), 59 “units” of new solar provided 1,155-MW while 15 units of wind accounted for 1,011-MW and four units of hydropower added 29-MW, for a total of 2,195-MW. By comparison, 16 units of natural gas (1,482-MW) and two units of oil (5-MW) contributed 1,487-MW. FERC reported no new capacity from coal, nuclear, or any other sources.
Moreover, utility-scale renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) now account for 21.49% of the nation’s total installed operating generating capacity – more than double that of nuclear power (9.04%) and almost equal to that of coal (21.68%).*
FERC lists currently installed solar (38.10-GW) as providing 3.19% of total U.S. generating capacity. However, FERC does not include small-scale solar (i.e., less than 1-MW) which accounts for roughly one-third of U.S. installed solar generating capacity. Its inclusion would mean that total renewable energy generating capacity is now greater than that of coal.
Finally, a major change in FERC’s most recent monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” reports is the inclusion of a new column titled “High Probability Additions” in the table “Proposed Generation Additions and Retirements by April 2022.”
It suggests that – over the next three years – net new additions in generating capacity by renewable energy sources will be nearly 100 greater than those of all fossil fuel and nuclear sources combined.
Specifically, net new additions of natural gas will total 20,304-MW but be almost entirely offset by net retirements of coal (14,624-MW), oil (1,030-MW), and nuclear power (4,252-MW) for a net increase of only 398-MW.
Meanwhile, each renewable energy technology is projected to experience net new additions — wind: 24,866-MW, solar: 12,925-MW, hydropower: 415-MW, biomass: 319-MW, and geothermal: 280-MW — for a combined total of 38,805-MW. That is 97.5 times more net new renewable energy capacity additions than projected for fossil fuels and nuclear combined.
“With renewable energy generating capacity now equal to that of coal and new renewable capacity additions projected to vastly exceed those of fossil fuels and nuclear power over the next three years, 2019 may eventually be remembered as the beginning of the era of renewable energy dominance,” observed Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “At the least, it will prove to be yet another high-water mark for sustainable energy technologies.”
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* Capacity is not the same as actual generation. Capacity factors for nuclear power and fossil fuels tend to be higher than those for most renewables. For calendar year 2018, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that renewables accounted for almost 18% of the nation’s total electrical generation – that is, a bit less than their share of installed generating capacity. Coal’s share of actual generation in 2018 was 27.2% while that of nuclear power was 19.2%.
FERC’s 6-page “Energy Infrastructure Update for March 2019” was released on May 7, 2019. It can be found at: https://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2019/mar-energy-infrastructure.pdf. For the information cited in this update, see the tables entitled “New Generation In-Service (New Build and Expansion),” “Total Available Installed Generating Capacity,” and “Proposed Generation Additions and Retirements by April 2022.”
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The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1992 to aggressively promote 100% reliance on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels and as a strategy for addressing climate change.