New data from the EIA (US Energy Information Administration) shows that during the first half of 2022, renewables accounted for more than 25% of the country’s electrical generation.
According to the most recent edition of the EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report, which contains data up to June 30, 2022, the electrical output of renewable energy sources, including wind, hydropower, biomass, geothermal, and solar (both large- and small-scale solar), increased by 18.45% in the first half of 2022 compared to 2021’s first half.
Renewables Surpass Estimates
The EIA predicted on August 16 that 22% of US power output in 2022 will come from renewable energy sources. As of mid-year, renewable energy sources have already supplied 25.23% of all US electrical generation, exceeding the prediction.
According to the report, in the six months preceding June 30:
- Generation from solar energy sources increased by 27.72% and contributed 4.94% to US electrical output.
- Generation by wind increased by 24.67%, accounting for 11.55% of all electrical generation.
- Generation by hydroelectric (excluding pumped energy storage) increased by 9.52%, accounting for 7.08% of total US electrical output.
- Geothermal output increased by 10.02%, although it only contributed 0.38% of total US electrical generation.
- Nuclear power output decreased by 1.31% and contributed 18.17% of total electrical generation.
- Coal power output decreased by 6.19% and contributed 19.59% of total electrical generation.
- Natural gas output increased by 5.56% compared to 2021. It provided 36.02% of the total production.
- Nuclear and coal output were outperformed by renewable energy by 38.81% and 28.76%, respectively.
Wind and solar together produced 344,685 GWh, compared to 379,927 GWh produced by nuclear power plants in the United States.
Compared to 2021, the hydroelectric output is up; however, it’s down 4.77% compared to 2020. Droughts have negatively impacted hydroelectric output. It remains an essential renewable energy source; it provides more green electricity than solar photovoltaic and thermal technologies combined.
Natural gas is the largest energy source, producing almost as much electricity as coal and nuclear power combined. Natural gas emits half of the CO2 emissions of coal to generate the same amount of electricity. However, experts are concerned with the high amount of methane that leaks throughout the supply chain. A 2018 Environmental Defense Fund study found that the industry leaked 2.3% of the gas, 60% higher than EPA estimates. Some have estimated the actual number to be closer to 3%. As a greenhouse gas, methane has more than 80 times the warming power of CO2 over 20 years.
While natural gas output is up compared to 2021, it has decreased by 1.01% compared to 2020. It’s unclear if the natural gas output will increase or decrease in the coming years as it is often recommended as a “cleaner” source of energy when compared to coal or oil. Natural gas will still need to be phased out for the nation to reach its net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goal by 2050.
Ken Bossong, the SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director, commented after reviewing the EIA data:
“Now providing one-quarter of the [US’s] electrical output, it is conceivable that with the incentives provided by the new Inflation Reduction Act, wind, solar, and other renewables will reach the one-third point within the next few years and dominate electrical generation thereafter.”
However, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence, wind developers connected only 945 megawatts of new capacity to US grids in the second quarter of 2022, a 77% decrease from the same quarter in 2021.
“The decline in additions occurred as the United States wind industry was waiting to see if Congress would reinstate production tax credits for new onshore wind farms, with wind equipment manufacturers experiencing delays in orders amid policy uncertainty, supply chain disruptions and rising prices.”
Increasing Investments In Renewable Energy
BloombergNEF reports an increase of 11% in total renewable energy investments worldwide, to a total of $226 billion in the first half of 2022.
The report claims that large- and small-scale solar project investments increased by 33%, up to a record-breaking $120 billion. Wind energy investments were up 16% compared to the first half of 2021, to $84 billion.
The New Inflation Reduction Act
The decline in wind power installations is expected to be reversed due to the new Inflation Reduction Act.
“Looking ahead, the United States has a strong wind energy project development pipeline, with 73.4 GW through 2026, according to Market Intelligence data. Of that total, 31% is in advanced development or under construction. For 2022, 13 GW is in various stages of development, with almost 6.2 GW, or 48%, under construction and another nearly 1.5 GW, or 11%, in advanced development.”
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is a comprehensive energy and climate law that grants up to $370 billion in federal money to decarbonization initiatives over the following ten years. President Joe Biden signed it on August 16. The law includes a provision that extends the federal tax credits for the clean energy transition. Additionally, it would end a 10-year-old effective ban on leasing offshore wind in much of the Southeast United States.