Renewables = 21.6% of US Electricity in 1st Quarter, 25.5% in March

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Renewable energy’s contribution to United States electricity supply has been growing for years. In just the past three years, renewable energy’s share of US electricity generation in the first quarter of the year has grown by more than three percentage points, from 18.4% in Q1 2019 to 21.6% in Q1 2021.

Wind power has been the biggest source of growth, going from 7.2% to 9.7%.

Solar power also gave a significant boost, going from 2.0% to 3.1% — still a small share of overall electricity generation, but growing at a solid clip.

The month of March was notably better for wind and solar than earlier months in the quarter. As a result, the same comparisons for just the month of March (charts above) show wind power growing from 7.8% in 2019 to 12.6% in 2021 and solar power growing from 2.7% to 4.3%.

Hydropower’s share of US electricity generation actually declined a bit in those time periods. So did the share of electricity coming from natural gas and coal.

If we look over a longer timeframe, the growth offers a more uplifting view.

  • Solar power went from 0% in 2010 to 3.3% in 2020.
  • Wind power went from 2.3% in 2010 to 8.3% in 2020.
  • Renewables as a whole went from 10.4% in 2010 to 20.6% in 2020.

Charts below show changes from 2010 through 2020 by electricity source in two ways: 1) absolute electricity generation changes from year to year (all charts on the same scale), and 2) changes in percentage share of US electricity generation.

US solar-powered electricity growth from 2010 through 2020 (in GWh). The chart scale is the same as used in charts for all other electricity sources shown here.

Solar power’s growth in terms of share of US electricity produced from 2010–2020.

US wind-powered electricity growth from 2010 through 2020 (in GWh). The chart scale is the same as used in charts for all other electricity sources shown here.

Wind power’s growth in terms of share of US electricity produced from 2010–2020.

US electricity growth from renewables from 2010 through 2020 (in GWh). The chart scale is the same as used in charts for all other electricity sources shown here.

Renewable energy’s growth in terms of share of US electricity produced from 2010–2020.

US coal-powered electricity decline from 2010 through 2020 (in GWh). The chart scale is the same as used in charts for all other electricity sources shown here.

Coal power’s decline in terms of share of US electricity produced from 2010–2020.

US natural gas electricity growth from 2010 through 2020 (in GWh). The chart scale is the same as used in charts for all other electricity sources shown here.

Natural gas power’s growth in terms of share of US electricity produced from 2010–2020.

As indicated higher up in this article, the first quarter of 2021 looks better for renewables than the first quarter of 2019 or 2020. Also, US capacity additions have been coming almost 100% from solar and wind power. Therefore, it is clear that solar and wind power will see growth yet again in 2021 that will continue some of the trends above.


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