US renewables just surpassed coal

In April, US Renewable energy capacity surpassed coal, signalling the tipping point for renewables, led predominantly by wind and solar. April’s data from FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, shows that the cumulative capacity across renewables (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower) stood at 21.6% (257.53MW) beating out coal at 21.5% (157.48MW).

In April, US Renewable energy capacity surpassed coal, signalling the tipping point for renewables, led predominantly by wind and solar.

April’s data from FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, shows that the cumulative capacity across renewables (wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower) stood at 21.6% (257.53MW) beating out coal at 21.5% (257.48MW).

Renewable energy now has the second largest installed capacity behind natural gas, the predominant carbon-based source at 44.4%. Nuclear contributes 9.0%.

Source Installed Capacity (GW) % of Total Installed Capacity
Natural Gas 531.08 44.4%
Coal 257.48 21.5%
Nuclear 106.99 9.0%
Hydro 100.44 8.4%
Wind 98.62 8.3%
Oil 39.77 3.3%
Solar 38.54 3.2%
Biomass 16.1 1.3%
Geothermal Steam 3.83 0.3%
Waste Heat 1.32 0.1%
Other 0.78 0.1%

FERC Data

New installations of wind (1.5GW) and solar (1.4GW) were the key drivers of renewable energy capacity growth from January to April 2019. And while wind and solar growth continue, traditional energy sources are beginning to decline.

FERC projections for 2022 predict a net decline of 24MW for nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas combined, where growth in natural gas capacity is countered with a decrease in coal, nuclear and oil. Wind is expected to grow by 25.1GW and utility-scale solar by 14.5GW.

Despite the current US administration’s rhetoric and appetite for coal, the market for wind and solar is driving the energy industry towards renewables. The FERC report coincides with Beyond Carbon, a $500 million campaign, launched by former NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg, aiming to eliminate coal plants by 2030 and curtail the growth of natural gas.

“We’re in a race against time with climate change, and yet there is virtually no hope of bold federal action on this issue for at least another two years…Mother Nature is not waiting on our political calendar, and neither can we.” – Michael Bloomberg

For The New York Times, Lisa Friedman writes “More than 280 coal plants, about 40 per cent of the United States coal fleet, have either closed or announced plans to close since 2010. This new campaign aims to shut down the remaining 241 plants in the country by 2030.“

Sources and further reading:
Business Green
Office of Energy Projects Energy Infrastructure Update (FERC, PDF)
New York Times

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