According to an analysis by the SUN DAY Campaign of data released by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), natural gas dominated new electrical generating capacity in 2018. However, renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) seem poised to swamp fossil fuels as new generating capacity is added over the next three years.
The FERC “Energy Infrastructure Update” report (with data through Dec. 31, 2018) notes that new natural gas generation placed in service in 2018 totaled 20,048 MW or 64.9 percent of the total (30,881 MW). Renewable sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for 10,392 MW or 33.7 percent. The balance (1.4 percent) was provided by nuclear (350 MW), waste heat (51 MW), oil (25 MW), coal (10 MW), and other (5 MW).
Supported by a late surge of new generating facilities (1.943 MW) in December, wind ended 2018 with 6,028 MW of additional capacity for the year or over 19.5 percent of the total. It was followed by solar (4,181MW) or 13.5 percent. However, new capacity from wind and solar combined in 2018 (10,209 MW) was actually one-quarter less than that added in 2017 (13,601 MW).
The data also reveals that renewable sources now account for 21 percent of total available installed U.S. generating capacity. Five years ago, renewables were 16 percent. Their total installed generating capacity has increased by 35.6 percent over the past half-decade (from 185.16 GW to 250.99 GW). Utility-scale solar has reached 3 percent of the nation’s generating capacity while hydropower and wind account for 8.4 percent and 7.9 percent respectively.
Moreover, the same report indicates that proposed generation and retirements over the next three years include net capacity additions by renewable sources of 183,816 MW. That is 4.2 times greater than the net new additions listed for coal, oil, and natural gas combined (43,312 MW).
Net proposed generation additions from wind alone total 97,455 MW while those from solar are 70,902 MW; each greater than that listed for natural gas (59,900 MW). Within the past month (since the release of the November 2018 “Energy Infrastructure Update” report), the amount of net new solar and wind proposed to be added by January 2022 has increased by 9.1 percent from 154,344 MW to 168,357 MW.
Meanwhile, FERC lists a single new 17-MW coal unit for the upcoming three-year period but 15,244 MW in retirements. Oil will also decline by 1,361 MW. However, FERC lists nuclear power as increasing by 2,090 MW.
“The dramatic expansion of natural gas capacity in 2018 does not bode well for efforts to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions,” concludes Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “However, the continued growth of wind, solar, and other renewables and the probability of a significant increase within the next few years does provide a bit of hope for addressing the worsening perils posed by climate change.”
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