Clean energy was the No. 2 source of electricity in the US in 2020


Clean energy sources generated a record 834 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity, or about 21% of all electricity generated in the US in 2020, the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported yesterday. That includes wind, hydroelectric, solar, biomass, and geothermal.

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Only natural gas (1.617 billion kWh) produced more electricity than clean energy in the US in 2020.

Clean energy surpassed both nuclear (790 billion kWh) and coal (774 billion kWh) for the first time on record. This was the result of significantly less coal use in US electricity generation and the growth of wind and solar last year.

2020 was the first year that more electricity was generated by clean energy and nuclear than by coal. 

Source: EIA

The EIA writes:

In 2020, US electricity generation from coal in all sectors declined 20% from 2019, while renewables, including small-scale solar, increased 9%. Wind, currently the most prevalent source of renewable electricity in the United States, grew 14% in 2020 from 2019. Utility-scale solar generation (from projects greater than 1 megawatt) increased 26%, and small-scale solar, such as grid-connected rooftop solar panels, increased 19%.

However, 2021 results are going to look a little different than last year due to rising natural gas prices.

Source: EIA

The EIA is predicting that coal is going to make a comeback, but it expects that comeback to be short-lived:

Based on forecasts in our Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), we expect coal-fired electricity generation in all sectors in 2021 to increase 18% from 2020 levels before falling 2% in 2022. We expect US renewable generation across all sectors to increase 7% in 2021 and 10% in 2022. As a result, we forecast coal will be the second-most prevalent electricity source in 2021, and renewables will be the second-most prevalent source in 2022. We expect nuclear electric power to decline 2% in 2021 and 3% in 2022 as operators retire several generators.

The EIA expects clean energy to be the dominant source of electricity in the US by 2030.

Read more: Renewables will be the leading source of US electricity by 2030

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