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Renewable electricity in the United States beat coal in 2022

The U.S. Energy Information Administration announced on Monday that in the United States, renewable energy-generated electricity will surpass coal for the first time in 2022.

After first surpassing nuclear generation last year, renewables also did so in 2022.

The expansion of wind and solar power significantly fueled the expansion of renewable energy and contributed 14% of the domestic electricity production in 2022.

“I’m happy to see we’ve crossed that threshold, but that is only a step in what has to be a very rapid and much cheaper journey,” said Stephen Porder, a professor of ecology and assistant provost for sustainability at Brown University.

California generated 26% of the national utility-scale solar electricity, followed by Texas with 16% and North Carolina with 8%.

Texas generated 26% of all wind energy in the United States, followed by Iowa (10%) and Oklahoma (9%).

“This booming growth is driven largely by economics,” said Gregory Wetstone, president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy. “Over the past decade, the levelized cost of wind energy declined by 70 percent, while the levelized cost of solar power has declined by an even more impressive 90 percent.”

“Renewable energy is now the most affordable source of new electricity in much of the country,” added Wetstone.

Wind’s share of the U.S. electricity generation mix is expected to rise from 11 percent to 12 percent between 2022 and 2023, while solar’s share is expected to rise from 4 percent to 5 percent. From 2022 to 2023, the natural gas share is expected to remain at 39%, while the coal share is expected to fall from 20% last year to 17% this year.

“Wind and solar are going to be the backbone of the growth in renewables, but whether or not they can provide 100% of the U.S. electricity without backup is something that engineers are debating,” said Brown University’s Porder.

He stated that as the proportion of renewable energy supplying the energy grid grows, numerous decisions will be required.

Porder stated that because existing energy grids were constructed to deliver power from a consistent source, this presents difficulties for engineers and policymakers. Power is generated intermittently by renewable sources like wind and solar. He stated that in order to assist in addressing these difficulties, battery storage, long-distance transmission, and other measures will be required.

According to the EIA report, the nation is still heavily dependent on burning climate-altering fossil fuels. In 2022, coal-fired power accounted for 20% of the electric sector, down from 23% in 2021. In contrast to 37% in 2021, natural gas generated 39% of all electricity in the United States in 2022.

“When you look at the data, natural gas has been a major driver for lowering greenhouse gas emissions from electricity because it’s been largely replacing coal-fired power plants,” said Melissa Lott, director of research for the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University.

“Moving forward, you can’t have emissions continuing to go up, you need to bring them down quickly,” added Lott.

According to Lott, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) had an impact on the number of renewable energy projects that came online in 2022, and it is anticipated to have a “tremendous” effect on accelerating clean energy projects.

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