A comparison of the nation’s power mix in 2007 and 2019 clearly shows a transition to less expensive, lower-carbon energy sources. The numbers are even more impressive considering total electricity consumption has changed by less than 1% in that span, which makes each power source’s changing share a direct reflection of changing electrical output.
|Power Source||Share of Total U.S. Electricity Consumption, 2019||Share of Total U.S. Electricity Consumption, 2007|
The transition away from coal is expected to continue. Here are a few other highlights from the latest numbers compiled by the EIA:
- Just two years ago, the EIA estimated coal-fired power plants would supply 22% of the nation’s electricity in 2050. That now appears to be a gross overestimate (although it appeared that way at the time, too).
- Due to closures and low utilization, it seems likely that July 2019 will be the last month ever that the U.S. generated more than 100 terawatt-hours of electricity from coal.
- The U.S. leaned on renewable energy sources for 17.5% of its total electricity consumption in 2019. Zero-carbon electricity sources had a 37.1% share of the power mix last year.
- Nuclear power plants generated an estimated 809 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2019, which was an all-time high. The nation’s fleet accomplished the feat through improvements called uprates, which add capacity to existing assets. The trend is not expected to continue in face of reactor closures in the next several years, although nuclear power outproduced coal for the first time ever in April 2019. It did it again in December 2019.
- An estimated 10,000 megawatts of onshore wind power came on line in 2019, including 3,800 megawatts in the fourth quarter. Those assets will contribute their first full year of production in 2020, which will significantly increase the share of electricity generated from wind power this year.
- A record amount of wind capacity is expected to come on line in 2020, meaning wind power’s share of the generation mix will increase further in 2021. The EIA had previously expected 14,300 megawatts to come on line in 2020, but a large share of projects expected to be completed last year were pushed into this year after a federal subsidy was extended. That could make 2020 a fantastic year for capacity additions.
- Utility-scale solar assets generated an estimated 72 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2019, but small-scale solar installations (rooftop and commercial assets) generated an additional 35 terawatt-hours. The EIA currently excludes small-scale generation from power mix calculations. When included, solar accounted for 2.6% of all electricity consumption in the U.S. in 2019.