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Green energy leads new US generating capacity in 2020

The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) June 2020 Energy Infrastructure Update reports that green energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower dominated new US electrical generating capacity additions in the first half of 2020.

US green energy growth

Green energy made up 57.14% (7,859 MW) of the 13,753 MW of new capacity added during the first six months of 2020. Natural gas came in second, with 42.67% (5,869 MW). So, that’s a total percentage of 99.81%. The balance? Coal (20 MW) and “other” sources (5 MW). There were no new additions of oil, nuclear, or geothermal to the date of the report in 2020.

So that means green energy now makes up 23.04% of the US’ total available installed generating capacity, compared to coal, at 20.19%. Wind and solar alone is now at 13.08% of the US total, and that’s excluding rooftop solar. And over the next three years, green energy should make up more than one-quarter of the US’ total generating capacity.

Environment + Energy Leader reports:

Analysis by the Sun Day Campaign, a nonprofit research organization, shows that, five years ago, FERC reported that total installed renewable energy generating capacity was 17.27% of the nation’s total with wind at 5.84% (now 9.13%) and solar at 1.08% (now 3.95%). Thus, over the past half-decade, wind’s share of the nation’s generating capacity has expanded by nearly 60% while that of solar is now almost four times greater.

By comparison, in June 2015, coal’s share was 26.83% (now 20.19%), nuclear was 9.20% (now 8.68%), and oil was 3.87% (now 3.29%). Only natural gas has shown any growth among non-renewable sources — expanding modestly from a 42.66% share five years ago to 44.63% today.

Wind and solar are forecast to each provide at least one-third more new generating capacity than natural gas over the next three years.

Electrek’s Take

Let’s state the obvious: The US is moving toward green energy and away from fossil fuels, and that’s great, and as it should be, mostly thanks to state and local initiatives. But it’s not fast enough, and it’s not enough growth in the overall use of renewable energy.

More than 25% of total generating capacity lags behind European countries who are embracing green energy and, for example, killing off coal entirely, such as Portugal, Austria, Sweden, and Belgium. And over half of Denmark’s energy in 2019 came from renewable sources.

The US path forward on energy is going to be dictated by the outcome of the November presidential elections. Will there be federal leadership on a renewables plan, no more subsidies for fossil fuels, and tackling climate change? We’ll see.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.