Environmental Science

US Renewables Generated More Power than Coal or Nuclear in 2020 for the First Time

US Renewables Generated More Power than Coal or Nuclear in 2020 for the First Time

For the first time in history, the United States produced more electricity than renewable coal or nuclear power last year, according to a new report from the Energy Information Administration. Along with the growth of wind, solar, and hydropower, the renewable industry generated 21 percent of all electricity generation in the United States last year, a massive increase over the previous decade. In the past year, the United States has seen a record increase in renewable electricity generation, adding 26 gigawatts of generation capacity in 2020 alone, 80 percent more than in 2019.

Combined with the previous infrastructure, it has brought total renewable power generation to 170 gigawatts, leaving both nuclear and coal with only a few percent (20 percent and 19 percent of total power generation). This is now taking renewables to the second-largest generator of electricity, although natural gas still lags behind by a large margin of 19 percent.

However, between renewable and nuclear, 41 percent of American electricity generation is now low-carbon or carbon-free. While the path is incredibly promising, the EIA still expects coal production to increase as natural gas becomes more expensive. However, renewability is expected to increase rapidly, with production approximately 10 percent higher by 2022.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration announced on July 28 that renewable energy production has become the second most used power source in the United States after natural gas alone, surpassing coal-fired generation and nuclear power. Renewable energy sources, including wind, hydropower, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy – generated a record 834 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, or about 21% of all electricity generated in the United States by 2020, according to the EIA.

Renewable energy nuclear, 790 billion kilowatts and coal, 774 billion kWh, exceeded for the first time on record. 

According to an EIA statement, “This result in 2020 was significantly lower in US power generation, significantly lower coal use, and continued use of wind and solar.” In 2020, the United States produced 1.61 billion kilowatt-hours of natural gas. “We expect coal-fired power generation in the United States to increase by 2021 as natural gas prices continue to rise and coal becomes economically competitive,” the EIA said in a statement.