Renewables = 20.6% of US Electricity in 2020

2020 US electricity generation data are in from the US Energy Information Administration. Crunching the numbers, renewable energy accounted for 20.6% of US electricity generation last year.

That was led by wind power, which accounted for 8.3% of US electricity generation, followed by hydropower at 7.2% and solar power at 3.3%.

As reported last month, 77–80% of new US power capacity came from solar and wind power in 2020. However, power plants typically last decades and it takes a long time for significant changes in electricity generation to show capacity trends.

If we look a little bit further back in the electricity generation data, we can see that renewables are indeed growing their share of the electricity generation pie. In 2018, 17.5% of electricity generation came from renewables — 6.5% from wind power, 6.9% from hydropower, and 2.2% from solar power.

If you did a simple extrapolation using that 2018–2020 timeframe and extending the trend to 2030, renewables would rise to 36.1% of US electricity generation by 2030, with wind rising to 17.3%, hydropower to 8.7%, and solar power to 8.8%. However, that ignores the fact that solar power capacity has been growing increasingly faster in recent times. It’s more likely solar power would grow faster and the others perhaps slower. In fact, it was just a few months ago that the International Energy Agency declared solar power the cheapest electricity in history, and it was not long before that that Tesla rolled out record-low rooftop solar power prices. There is certainly an enormous amount of potential for greater solar power growth in the US in the coming decade.

Getting to the other side of the table, the biggest loser from 2018 to 2020 in the electricity sector was coal, which dropped from 27.3% of US electricity to 19.1% of US electricity. Actually, coal was the only source with a notable drop in US electricity generation. Natural gas saw its share rise from 34.9% to 39.9% and nuclear saw its share rise slightly from 19.2% to 19.5%.

If you follow climate science and air pollution news closely, then you are probably already grumbling and grunting that 36.1% renewable energy share of US electricity generation in 2030 just doesn’t cut it. Indeed, the transition to clean electricity needs to speed up. Perhaps the more significant renewable energy domination of new power capacity will help. Renewables grew from 18.3% in 2019 to 20.6% in 2020. A 2.3% increase in renewable energy share each year would at least lead to 43.6% renewable energy share by 2030.

We’ll see, and CleanTechnica will certainly be tracking it, as we have been for the past decade.

Regarding the month of December, that is typically not the best month for renewables, and in 2020 the share came to 20.1%, a bit below the full-year total of 20.6%. Though, wind and solar accounted for 11.6% in December just as they did for the year as a whole. And the year-over-year increases in the month of December were as follows:

Source December 2018 December 2019 December 2020
Renewables 17.0% 17.5% 20.1%
Solar + Wind 8.5% 9.4% 11.6%
Solar 1.4% 1.6% 2.3%

Do you have any additional thoughts on the December or 2020 electricity generation split in the United States, or in the trends from 2018 through 2020? If you have any forecasts to share for the coming decade, feel free to chime in down in the comments with those as well.

In the meantime, if you don’t have solar power and can get it, do so now! There are still great federal incentives as well as record-low prices. If you want to go with conventional solar PV via Tesla or a Tesla Solar Roof, feel free to use my referral code for a modest discount:

If you’d like to install small-scale wind power or hydropower on your property, sorry, I can’t help you with that. 😀

To close this report, here are interactive versions of the electricity generation charts:

As an addendum, here’s our latest US power capacity report, referenced above:

77–80% of New US Power Capacity Came from Solar & Wind in 2020

According to new data from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) — data derived from Velocity Suite, ABB Inc. and The C Three Group LLC — solar power and wind power accounted for 77.1% of new utility-scale power capacity in the United States in 2020 (chart above). Adding in a CleanTechnica estimate for rooftop solar power capacity, that percentage rises to 80.1% (chart below).

Using the first group of figures (excluding rooftop or small-scale solar power), another 1% of power capacity came from other renewable energy sources and 21.8% came from natural gas.

Using the second group of figures (with a CleanTechnica estimate for rooftop/small-scale solar power), natural gas accounted for 18.9% of new US power capacity in 2020.

In the month of December, 99% of new power capacity came from solar and wind power, while natural gas contributed 1% of new power capacity across the country.

Considering politics for a moment, recall that Donald Trump said he’d revive the coal industry. In actuality, there was no stopping market forces and the coal industry continually collapsed under Trump, including in the last year of his presidency. I will return to the long-term collapse of coal in another article. However, while coal did continue to decline and renewable energy — most notably solar and wind — rose, the growth of solar and wind power slowed under the Trump administration, which had several fossil fuel industry insiders running major US departments — Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Interior. Under President Biden, solar and wind power are expected to grow faster again. The point is not to beat 80% of new power capacity coming from solar and wind as much as it is to increasingly retire fossil fuel power plants while using more and more electricity from renewable energy sources.

For a closer look at the power capacity additions that were connected to the grid at the end of 2020, these are the utility-scale power projects that went online in December 2020:

  • Invenergy LLC’s 522 MW Sagamore Wind Project in Roosevelt County, NM.
  • Diamond Spring LLC’s 300 Diamond Spring Wind Project in Johnston County, OK.
  • ENGIE North America Inc’s 300 Prairie Hill Wind Project in Mclennan, TX.
  • NextEra Energy Resources LLC’s 300 MW White Hills Wind Project in Mohave County, AZ.
  • Diamond Trail Wind Energy LLC’s 252.5 MW Diamond Trail Wind Energy Project in Iowa County, IA.
  • Amadeus Wind LLC’s 250.1 MW WKN Amadeus Wind Project in Kent County, TX.
  • Nobles 2 Power Partners LLC’s 250.0 MW Nobles 2 Wind Farm in Nobles County, MN.
  • Skeleton Creek Wind LLC’s 250.0 MW Skeleton Creek Energy Center in Garfield County, OK.
  • White Cloud Wind Project LLC’s 236.5 MW White Cloud Wind Project in Nodaway County, MO.
  • Raymond Wind Farm LLC’s 201.6 MW Raymond Wind Project in Willacy County, TX.
  • Cedar Springs Transmission LLC’s 200.0 MW Cedar Springs Wind II Project in Converse County, WY.
  • Cimarron Bend Wind Project III LLC’s 200.0 MW Cimarron Bend Wind III Project in Clark County, KS.
  • Ponderosa Wind LLC’s 200.0 MW Ponderosa Wind Energy Center in Beaver County, OK.
  • Mountain Breeze Wind LLC’s 170.0 MW Mountain Breeze Wind Project in Weld County, CO.
  • Boiling Springs Wind Farm LLC’s 150.0 MW Boiling Springs Wind Farm in Woodward County, OK.
  • Gratiot Farms Wind Project LLC’s 150.0 MW Gratiot Farms in Gratiot County, MI.
  • Otter Tail Power Co’s 150.0 MW Merricourt Wind Project in Dickey County, ND.
  • Rattlesnake Flat LLC’s 144.0 MW Rattlesnake Flat Wind Project in Adams County, WA.
  • Cedar Springs Wind III LLC’s 120.0 MW Cedar Springs Wind III Project in Converse County, WY.
  • Cedar Springs Wind LLC’s 100.0 MW Cedar Springs Wind Projects in Converse County, WY.
  • PacifiCorp’s 100.0 MW Cedar Springs Wind Project in Converse County, WY.
  • Portland General Electric Co’s 100.0 MW Wheatridge Renewable Energy Facility in Morrow County, OR.
  • Horse Thief Wind Project LLC’s 80.0 MW Horse Thief Wind Project in Carbon County, MT.
  • Everpower Wind Holdings Inc’s 80.0 MW Mud Springs Wind Ranch in Carbon County, MT.
  • Pryor Caves Wind Project LLC’s 80.0 MW Pryor Caves Wind Project in Carbon County, MT.
  • Weaver Wind LLC’s 72.6 MW Weaver Wind Project in Hancock County, ME.
  • Black Hills Energy’s 40.0 MW Corriedale Wind Energy Project in Laramie County, WY.
  • Langford Wind Power LLC’s 5.0 MW Langford Wind Power Project in Irion County, TX.
  • ENGIE Long Draw Solar LLC’s 225.0 MW Long Draw Solar Project in Borden County, TX.
  • Hardin Solar Holdings LLC’s 150.0 MW Hardin Wind Energy Center in Hardin County, OH.
  • Saint Solar LLC’s 100.0 MW Saint Solar Project in Pinal County, AZ.
  • Florida Power & Light Co’s 74.5 MW Egret Solar Center in Baker County, FL.
  • Florida Power & Light Co’s 74.5 MW Lakeside Solar Center in Okeechobee County, FL.
  • Florida Power & Light Co’s 74.5 MW Nassau Solar Center in Nassau County, FL.
  • Florida Power & Light Co’s 74.5 MW Trailside Solar Center in Saint John County, FL.
  • Florida Power & Light Co’s 74.5 MW Union Springs Solar Center in Union County, FL.
  • Titan Solar 1 LLC’s 50.0 MW Titan Solar 1 Project in Imperial County, CA.
  • BT Kellam Solar LLC’s 61.0 MW Kellam Solar Project in Van Zandt County, TX.
  • BT Cooke Solar LLC’s 61.0 MW Rippey Solar Project in Cooke County, TX.
  • OR Holdings LLC’s 12.7 MW Agate Bay Solar Project in Jackson County, OR.
  • CTX Holdco LLC’s 10.0 MW Catan Solar Project in Karnes County, TX.
  • Madison Gas & Electric 8.0 MW Dane County Regional Arpt Solar Project in Dane County, WI.
  • Spencer Tioga Solar LLC’s 6.0 MW Pasto Solar Photovoltaic Project 11661 in Tioga County, NY.
  • Spencer Tioga Solar LLC’s 6.0 MW Pasto Solar Photovoltaic Project 10994 in Tioga County, NY.
  • Spencer Tioga Solar LLC’s 6.0 MW Pasto Solar Photovoltaic Project 10996 in Tioga County, NY.
  • Los Palos Street Operating LLC’s 5.5 MW solar powered Preferred Freezer Big Bear Project in Los Angeles County,

Notice the trend?

Total installed power capacity in the country still shows the dominance of fossil fuels — natural gas and coal. I’ll come back to that soon in our next US Electricity Generation Report.

To close, here’s an interactive option for 3 of the charts above as well as a 2019 capacity addition chart:

See more US Power Capacity Reports. Also see our US Electricity Generation Reports (new one arriving soon).

Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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