Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, electrical generation by the nation’s utility-scale wind and solar plants continues to set new records – it was 35.1% greater in November 2020 than it was in the same month a year earlier, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of new data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” (with data through Nov. 30, 2020) also reveals that year-to-date, solar-generated electricity – including distributed solar – expanded by 22.5% (compared to the same period in 2019) and provided almost 3.4% of the nation’s total. Wind grew by 13.8% and accounted for 8.2% of total generation. Combined, electrical generation by wind and solar grew by 16.2% in 2020. No other energy sources experienced similarly high growth rates.
“With a supportive Biden administration directing national energy policy, renewably-generated electricity seems poised for rapid growth,” says Ken Bossong, executive director of SUN DAY Campaign. “While EIA foresees renewables providing 23% of U.S. electricity in 2022, the actual percentage could very well be significantly higher – perhaps 25% or more.”
The electrical output by all renewables increased by 8.8% and provided 20.7% of the country’s total electrical output – up from 18.4% a year earlier. Renewables’ share of U.S. electrical generation has eclipsed that of nuclear power (19.4%) and coal (18.8%). Renewables produced 10.1% more electricity than coal through November 2020. In fact, electrical generation by coal was 22.1% lower than a year earlier.
The increase in new electricity from wind and solar was greater than the increase in electrical generation by natural gas. During the first eleven months of 2020, solar and wind produced 59,859 GWh more than they did during the same period in 2019. By comparison, electrical generation by natural gas increased by only 35,874 GWh. While it continued to provide the largest share (40.2%) of the nation’s electrical output, natural gas grew by only 2.5% during the first eleven months of 2020 and actually dropped by 8.6% in the month of November.
As the economy continues to bounce back from the COVID crisis and expand, look ahead to a dramatic increase in the share of renewables in energy generation.