The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)’s latest monthly Energy Infrastructure Update report shows electrical generating capacity by renewable energy sources edging past that of coal in the United States for the first time, according to the Sun Day Campaign’s analysis this week.
Sun Day Campaign is a nonprofit research and educational organization that promotes sustainable energy technologies. Executive director Ken Bossong analyzed FERC’s six-page Energy Infrastructure Update for April 2019, which was published on June 7 and contains data through April 30. He spotted that during the first four months of the year saw the addition of 1,545 MW of new wind capacity and 1,473 MW of new solar capacity, plus 29 MW of new hydropower.
Renewable energy’s share of total available installed US generating capacity rose to 21.56%, Bossong said. “By comparison, coal’s share dropped to 21.55%, down from 23.04% a year ago.”
In May, coal and renewable energy installed capacity were virtually tied.
FERC’s latest data also revealed that, on average, US renewable energy capacity has been adding a percentage point each year, the Sun Day Campaign noted. “The share of the nation’s generating capacity provided by utility-scale solar alone has more than doubled during the past three years from 1.42% to 3.23%,” according to the nonprofit. “Meanwhile, wind’s share has increased from 6.43% to 8.25% and is now on track to surpass hydropower (8.41%) within the next few months.”
Bossong points out that capacity is not the same as actual generation. He cites US Energy Information Administration reports for 2018 that show renewables accounted for a little more than 17.6% of total electrical generation, with coal’s share at 27.2%. In addition, he noted that FERC only reports data for utility-scale facilities, which are rated 1-MW or greater so these reports don’t reflect distributed renewables capacity such as rooftop solar.
“If FERC’s projections prove accurate, in three years, renewable energy sources will provide nearly one-quarter of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity with wind alone accounting for over a tenth and solar at 4.32%,” Bossong wrote. “The balance will be provided by hydropower, biomass, and geothermal.”