The U.S. Energy Information Administration announced on Monday that electricity generated from renewables surpassed coal in the United States for the first time in 2022 while it also surpassed nuclear generation in 2022 after first doing so last year.
The increase in renewable energy was driven by growth in wind and solar which contributed 14% of the electricity produced domestically in 2022.
“I’m happy to see we’ve crossed that threshold, but that is only a step in what has to be a very rapid and much cheaper journey,” Stephen Porder, a professor of ecology and assistant provost for sustainability at Brown University was quoted as saying.
California led the national utility-scale solar electricity production by 26%, followed by Texas with 16% and North Carolina with 8% while the most wind generation occurred in Texas, which accounted for 26% of the U.S. total followed by Iowa (10%) and Oklahoma (9%).
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“This booming growth is driven largely by economics. Over the past decade, the levelized cost of wind energy declined by 70 percent, while the levelized cost of solar power has declined by an even more impressive 90 percent.
“Renewable energy is now the most affordable source of new electricity in much of the country,” said Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy.
According to the Energy Information Administration’s projection, the wind share of the U.S. electricity generation mix will increase from 11% to 12% from 2022 to 2023 while solar will grow from 4% to 5% during the period. Also, the natural gas share is expected to remain at 39% from 2022 to 2023, and coal is projected to decline from 20% last year to 17% this year.
“Wind and solar are going to be the backbone of the growth in renewables, but whether or not they can provide 100% of the U.S. electricity without backup is something that engineers are debating,” said Brown University’s Porder.
Many decisions lie ahead, he said, as the proportion of renewables that supply the energy grid increases.
Experts believe the amount of renewable energy projects that went online in 2022 was influenced by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and it’s expected to have a “tremendous” impact on accelerating clean energy projects.
Story was adapted from AP.