US solar, wind output up by 16% in H1, renewables continue to expand lead over coal, nuclear

Vestas wind park in the US. Image: Courtesy of Vestas Wind Systems A/S

August 27 (Renewables Now) - Renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) produced significantly more electricity than either coal or nuclear power during the first six months of 2020, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of just-released data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

The latest issue of EIA's "Electric Power Monthly" (with data through June 30, 2020) reveals that solar and wind both showed continued, strong growth, expanding faster than all other energy sources.   

For the period January - June 2020, solar-generated electricity – including distributed solar - expanded by 22.0% year-on-year and provided nearly 3.4% of the nation’s total. Wind grew by 14.5% and accounted for more than 9.1% of total generation.  

Combined, net electrical generation by wind and solar is 16.4% greater than a year ago and provided a bit more than 12.5% - or one-eighth - of total US electrical production during the first six months of 2020. Together with hydropower, biomass, and geothermal, renewables provided 22.3% of total electrical output - up from 19.9% a year earlier.  

Moreover, renewables produced almost a third (i.e., 31.3%) more electricity than coal through June 2020. In fact, electrical generation by coal was 31.0% lower than a year earlier and accounted for just 16.9% of the nation’s total. 

In addition, renewable energy sources produced 7.8% more electricity than did nuclear power during the same six-month period and seem poised to further widen the gap. In June alone, renewables outperformed nuclear power by 16.4%.  

EIA’s data for just the month of June also appear to more-or-less reinforce the trends first seen in April and May that may be attributable to the coronavirus' impact on competing energy sources - that is, renewables overall are faring much better than nuclear power and fossil fuels.  

Net electrical generation by coal in June was 16.7% less than a year earlier while that by nuclear power dropped by 2.3%. Electricity provided by natural gas was 4.6% more than in June 2019.

In comparison, total electrical generation by all renewable energy sources combined rose by 16.3%. Non-hydro renewables alone provided 21.5% more electricity in June 2020 than a year ago – driven primarily by a 31.4% expansion by wind and an 18.1% increase in solar generation. Conventional hydropower’s output also grew 8.1%. However, electrical generation by biomass fell by 10.0% while that from geothermal power dipped by 1.5% .   

"Renewable sources combined are now second only to natural gas in providing electricity to US homes and businesses," noted the SUN DAY Campaign's executive director Ken Bossong. "If current growth patterns continue - or even accelerate - it will not be many years more before they move into first place."  

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NOTE: The figures cited above include EIA's "estimated small-scale solar photovoltaic" (e.g., rooftop solar systems) which account for almost a third of total solar output and about five percent of total net electrical generation by renewable energy sources.   

The latest issue of EIA's "Electric Power Monthly" was officially posted late on August 25, 2020.
For the data cited in this news update, see:  

https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=epmt_es1a 

https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.php?t=epmt_es1b 

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The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organisation founded in 1992 to aggressively promote 100% reliance on sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels and as a strategy for addressing climate change.  

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Ken Bossong is Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign, a non-profit research and educational organiсation promoting sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.

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