US renewable energy production in 2022 surpasses coal and nuclear

Domestic production and consumption of renewable energy (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) reached a record high as of mid-year 2022, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of new data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The latest issue of EIA’s “Monthly Energy Review” report (with data through June 30, 2022) reveals that renewable sources accounted for nearly one-seventh (13.84%) of the U.S. energy produced and 13.65% of the energy consumed for electricity, transportation, heating, and other uses. Renewable energy production during the first six months of 2022 was 6.991 quadrillion Btu (quads) – 13.29% more than at the same time in 2021 and 17.54% more than at the mid-point of 2020. 

The growth of renewables was driven primarily by solar and wind which expanded by 26.55% and 24.66% respectively. There were also increases in output by biofuels (up 10.00%) and hydropower (up 9.54%) while geothermal energy remained essentially unchanged. Production by wood and biomass waste combined fell by 1.60%. 

Wind is now the largest single renewable energy source, accounting for 30.30% of total U.S. renewable energy output, followed by hydropower (18.57%),  biomass (18.48%), biofuels (17.78%), solar (13.43%), and geothermal (1.46%).

On the other hand, production by the nation’s nuclear power plants during the first half of 2022 was down by 1.29% and 3.76% respectively compared to the same six-month periods in 2021 and 2020. As a consequence, energy provided by renewable sources through the first half of 2022 exceeded nuclear generation by more than 75% (6.991 quads vs. 3.969 quads).  

Renewable energy production through the first half of this year also surpassed that of coal by 18.11% (6.991 quads vs. 5.919 quads). 

However, domestic energy production from all fossil fuel sources combined (i.e., oil and natural gas as well as coal) increased by 4.91% and accounted for 78.31% of the total. That, in turn, contributed to a 2.57% increase in carbon dioxide (C02) emissions attributable to U.S. fossil energy consumption. 

Strong growth by renewables is further confirmed by a second recently-released EIA report as well as another issued by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) – both with data through July 31, 2022.

According to EIA’s latest “Electric Power Monthly” report, electrical generation by renewable sources increased by 19.26% during the first seven months of 2022, compared to the same period a year earlier and provided 24.23% of total output, including wind at 10.74% and solar at 4.97%. By comparison, coal’s share dropped to 19.67% and nuclear fell to 17.80% while natural gas retained its lead at 37.40%. 

And according to the latest issue of FERC’s monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report, renewable energy sources accounted for more than two-thirds (66.76%) of new utility-scale generating capacity added during the first seven months of 2022. Renewables also now constitute 26.86% of total available installed generating capacity. Over the next three years, FERC says “high probability” net additions of solar and wind will total 66,204 megawatts (MW) and 17,792-MW respectively, compared to just 3,310-MW for natural gas.   

The expansion of renewable energy’s share of U.S. energy production and consumption should come as no surprise given the trend of the past decade,” noted the SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director Ken Bossong. “However, the latest growth data will likely pale compared to what is on the near-term horizon now that the Inflation Reduction Act has become law.” 

Sources: EIA released its latest “Monthly Energy Review” on September 27, 2022.