Of New Power Generation, How Much Is On The Roof? Quarterly Update – 2019 Q2

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Originally published at ilsr.org.

Renewable resources dropped back below 50% of new power generation in the second quarter of 2019. Although the proportion of distributed solar has grown in the last two quarters, losses in the growth of utility solar and wind allowed the majority share to be gas, once again. Despite this setback in percentage, renewables are making up a greater portion of new capacity than they have in previous second quarters of 2017 and 2018.

In the chart below, we illustrate the past several years of new power plant capacity in the US, disaggregated by energy source on a quarterly basis.

Fracked Gas Makes Up a Majority of New Capacity, for Now

Gas’ portion of new capacity grew by 12% this quarter. However, new research from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) predicts that utilities continuing this gas construction habit will have trouble paying for the plants to operate beyond 2035. According to its study “The Growing Market for Clean Energy Portfolios,” clean energy portfolios are cost competitive, and in some cases cheaper, than building new gas plants.

State regulators should pay particularly close attention to gas plant proposals. In Minnesota, the Public Utilities Commission unanimously rejected a gas plant purchase (the Mankato Energy Center) by Xcel Energy last week.

Distributed Solar Grows as Utility Solar Falters

This quarter, utility-scale solar hit its lowest total new capacity (395 megawatts) since the first quarter of 2015 (352 megawatts). Meanwhile, for the seventh consecutive quarter, small-scale solar added more than 850 megawatts of new capacity nationally.

Distributed solar has gained two percentage points this quarter, solidifying its history of consistent growth. Though reductions in utility solar and wind growth are discouraging for renewable energy advocates, these technologies have seen large fluctuations quarter-to-quarter. The outlook of small-scale solar still looks promising.

As more cities across the country look for creative ways to meet ambitious targets for energy independence and 100 percent renewable energy, the future continues to look bright for investments in local, renewable power.

Interested in earlier trends and analysis of new power plant capacity? Check out our archive, illustrating how electricity generation has changed in previous quarters and years.

This article originally posted at ilsr.org. For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter or get the Energy Democracy weekly update.

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John Farrell

John directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (energyselfreliantstates.org), and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at jfarrell@ilsr.org.

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