The United States reached a major milestone in its transition towards renewable energy in 2022, as electricity generated from renewables surpassed coal for the first time, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This achievement was driven by growth in wind and solar power, which contributed 14% of domestically-produced electricity in 2022. Hydropower provided 6%, while biomass and geothermal sources generated less than 1%.
The shift towards renewable energy in the U.S. has been largely driven by economics. The cost of wind and solar power has declined significantly over the past decade, with the levelized cost of wind energy falling by 70% and solar power declining by an impressive 90%, according to the American Council on Renewable Energy. Renewable energy has now become the most affordable source of new electricity in many parts of the country.
California led the way in utility-scale solar electricity production, followed by Texas and North Carolina. Meanwhile, Texas generated the most wind power, followed by Iowa and Oklahoma. The Energy Information Administration projects that the wind and solar shares of the U.S. electricity generation mix will continue to increase in the coming years.
Despite these gains, some experts have expressed concerns about the ability of wind and solar power to provide 100% of the country’s electricity without backup. This highlights the need for continued investment and innovation in energy storage technologies, as well as in other renewable energy sources such as hydropower and geothermal.
While the milestone of surpassing coal in electricity generation is a significant step towards a more sustainable energy future, much work remains to be done. As Brown University’s Stephen Porder notes, this is just the beginning of a “rapid and much cheaper journey” towards a fully renewable energy system. However, with continued investment and innovation, the U.S. can continue to build on its progress towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.