Renewables to produce more energy than coal in the US for the first time this year

Phil Snow, of Power Shift Solar, installs a solar panel at a home in Salt Lake City.
Phil Snow, of Power Shift Solar, installs a solar panel at a home in Salt Lake City.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
By Rosie Frost

Renewable energy is on track to produce more energy than coal in the US this year.

According to figures from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), more than a fifth of all electricity by the end of 2022 will come from hydropower, wind and solar.

That is higher than coal at 20 per cent and nuclear at 19 per cent. The only other year this happened was 2020 when energy generation was reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since 2019, solar and wind power have grown by 58 per cent in the US.

How is energy generation in the US changing?

“We expect renewable sources to provide 22 per cent of US electricity generation in 2022 and 24 per cent in 2023 as generation from natural gas declines from 38 per cent in 2022 to 36 per cent in 2023,” the report says.

After peaking around a decade ago, coal has seen a gradual decline in its share of energy production. This is set to drop from 20 to 19 per cent, according to the EIA.

AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez
Wind turbines work in Livermore, California.AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez

Overall energy consumption is expected to fall next year as economic models predict that US Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will drop slightly.

Researchers warn, however, that rapid growth in renewables is still needed for the US to meet its climate targets.

Will the US meet its renewable energy targets?

At COP27, President Joe Biden highlighted an “ambitious” climate package.

“I can stand here as president of the United States of America and say with confidence, the United States of America will meet our emissions targets by 2030,” he insisted.

This target commits the world’s biggest economy to cutting emissions by 40 per cent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File
electricians with IBEW Local 3 install solar panels on top of the Terminal B garage at LaGuardia Airport, New York.AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File

But to do this, the growth of wind and solar in the US needs to ramp up significantly. The country needs to install around 50 gigawatts of these renewables every year between 2022 and 2024, researchers at Princeton University estimate. This is roughly double what was installed annually in 2020 and 2021.

Just 11 gigawatts of wind and solar were installed in the US in the first nine months of this year. Experts expect this to pick up as the Inflation Reduction Act, approved earlier this year, sees $369 billion (€354 billion) in clean energy investments.