For various reasons, I’ve decided to start doing our US electricity generation capacity reports and US electricity generation reports once a quarter (instead of monthly), and I’ve also decided to start combining them. So, below is our update on US electricity generation capacity in Q1 2016 (with a new feature — comparing the quarter to the same quarter last year) and our update on US electricity generation in Q1 2016.
As usual, I’ve included interactive charts. Click the subheadings within the charts to see Q1 2015 data and, just in the first one, total installed capacity by electricity source. I find it fun to toggle back and forth between 2016 & 2015 data and get a visualization of how things changed.
US Electricity Generation Capacity Report Q1 2016
As you can see in the charts above and table below, renewable energy absolutely dominated to electricity generation capacity in the USA in Q1 2016, even more so than it did in Q1 2015.
Accounting for a whopping 99.2% of new electricity generation capacity, renewables — led by solar power and wind power, which accounted for 96.4% of new capacity — look prime to have a record-breaking year.
Renewables had a great period of growth in the same quarter of 2015, but natural gas also saw a big boom (458 MW of new capacity) in Q1 2015, compared to just 18 MW of new capacity in Q1 2016. As a result, natural gas dropped from 16.8% of new capacity in Q1 2015 to just 0.8% of new capacity in Q1 2016. Frankly, new natural gas power plants are out of style (and have a tough time competing with low-cost wind and low-cost solar).
Total installed capacity across the United States is still heavily in favor of dirty fossil fuel power plants and nuclear power plants. Natural gas is #1 with 42% of the country’s electricity generation capacity, coal is #2 with 25.3%, and nuclear is #3 with 9%. And that leads us into the electricity generation report….
US Electricity Generation Report Q1 2016
The depressing part of these reports is that, even when renewables = 100% of new capacity, total existing capacity and, thus, generation is still dominated by fossil fuels. Q1 2016, of course, follows the same rule. But movement can be identified:
- Renewables as a whole grew from 14% of US electricity in Q1 2015 to 17% in Q1 2016.
- Solar + wind grew from 5% to 7%.
- Solar finally reached 1% of US electricity generation, considered to be an important tipping point.
- Coal dropped from 36% t0 29%.
Though, natural gas did grow from 29% to 32%, by 19,527 gigawatt-hours (GWh).
Looking at more of the absolute changes:
- Generation from renewables grew by 21,714 GWh in Q1 2016 vs Q1 2015.
- Solar + wind grew by 17,343 GWh.
- Wind alone grew by 14,925 GWh.
- Coal dropped by 89,224 GWh.
- Petroleum liquids dropped by 4,814 GWh.
- Overall electricity generation dropped by 50,395 GWh, perhaps the most important change of all.
Positive trends. Check out the charts above and the table below and let me know if any other highlights stand out to you.