The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has forecast in its January Short-Term Energy Outlook that rising electricity generation from clean energy such as solar and wind will reduce generation from fossil fuel-fired power plants over the next two years.
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US electricity generation
The EIA is forecasting the share of generation for US clean energy, excluding hydropower, to grow from 13% in 2021 to 17% in 2023.
Looking back, the EIA notes:
The amount of solar power generating capacity operated by the US electric power sector at the end of 2021 is 20 times more than it was at the end of 2011, and US wind power capacity is more than twice what it was 10 years ago.
Inversely, the EIA forecasts that the share of generation from natural gas will fall from 37% in 2021 to 34% by 2023.
Natural gas declined from 39% in 2020 to 37% in 2021. That’s because the cost of natural gas delivered to US electric generators in 2021 averaged $4.88 per million British thermal units – more than double the average cost in 2020.
Natural gas is expected to decline, but operating costs of renewable generators will continue to be generally lower than natural gas-fired units.
Meanwhile, the share of generation from coal rose for the first time since 2014 to average 23% last year, but the coal share will decline from 23% to 22% by 2023, and continue to decline.
The EIA continues:
We estimate that the electric power sector had 63 gigawatts (GW) of existing solar power generating capacity operating at the end of 2021. We forecast solar capacity will grow by about 21 GW in 2022 and by 25 GW in 2023. We expect that 7 GW of wind generating capacity will be added in 2022 and another 4 GW in 2023. Operating wind capacity totaled 135 GW at the end of 2021.
This is not surprising news, yet it’s welcome news nonetheless. Will the renewable industry grow quickly enough to meet the Biden administration’s target of 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2030? Time will tell. That’s a big jump from 17% in just seven years, but the world can’t afford for this target to be missed.
Read more: Renewables will be the leading source of US electricity by 2030
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