Projections of solar capacity additions published by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) are “way too low,” said NEXTracker CEO Dan Shugar, in light of NEXTracker’s “actual delivery metrics to our U.S.A. customer projects.” He made the comments in a LinkedIn post.
“EIA’s projections greatly underestimate the growth of solar and significantly overestimate coal’s persistence in the energy mix,” he added in a pv magazine interview.
As for solar, EIA’s reference case projects the U.S. will add an average of 15 GW of solar per year through 2030, as shown in yellow in the image below. The Solar Energy Industries Association’s “Solar+ Decade Roadmap” issued last fall begins with 15 GW of solar added in 2020, but foresees 18% annual growth in installations, reaching nearly 80 GW of solar added in 2030:
SEIA’s goal does not reflect a technical limit, as a global team of scientists has described how to sustain a 30% growth rate in solar deployments.
As for coal, EIA projects that coal generation will be little changed through 2050, across all three scenarios for renewable energy cost reductions, with coal generation shown by the gray line, which is near the bottom and relatively flat after 2019:
In response to Dan Shugar’s comments about the growth of solar and coal’s persistence in EIA’s projections, EIA’s Renewable Electricity Analysis Team Leader Chris Namovicz noted that the agency’s $15 and $35 carbon fee cases show “a virtual end to coal generation” by 2050. As for “underestimating” solar growth, he quoted what he said was a common agency saying, that “there are no facts about the future,” and noted that EIA’s $35 carbon fee scenario shows about a 10-fold increase in solar by 2050. The carbon fee scenarios are described in a supplement to EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook.
Federal policy makers use EIA’s reference case projections as a “yardstick,” said Namovicz, “to identify areas where current laws may not be having a desired impact on the market,” and “to measure the impact of policy proposals, which we are occasionally asked to do by Congress.” Senior Scientist Ryan Wiser at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concurred, saying that “knowing how much of different generation types might deploy even absent strong policy levers helps inform policy decisions about those policy levers.”
Beyond EIA’s reference case projection, which shows renewables providing 38% of generation in 2050, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows 59% renewable generation by 2050, in its Standard Scenarios report, while Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects 43% renewable generation by 2050—according to data that Wiser compiled in a draft presentation that he made available to pv magazine.
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I can definitely tell you the EIA is very optimistic about coal. I believe the EIA Short Term Energy Outlook comes out today and it will be interesting to see if their 20% coal generation for 2020 and 2021 changes. Coal is one of the things I track. January coal generation was down 35% in 2020 vs 2019 – 101TWh to 65TWh. This was 19.7% of electric generation down from 28.2% last year. And, January is one of the “good” months for coal – January has been the highest coal generation month the previous two years. 65TWh would have been the second lowest month last year.
So, far preliminary data is showing the trend continuing with Feb, March and April. February was down 22TWh/27.7%, March down 28.8TWh/36.8% and I’m projecting April will be down 24TWh/40%. So far coal as a percentage of total generation has been Jan 19.7%, Feb 18.5%, Mar 17% and April 15% (through April 6). The year so far coal generation has been 18.1%. Additionally, I estimate capacity factor for coal has been 38.5%, 36.6% and 29.4% for Jan, Feb and Mar.
Correction on my earlier post – EIA had projected that coal generation for 2020 and 2021 would be 21% of total electric generation, not 20%.
The just released April STEO now says coal generation will fall 20% from 2019. In 2019 coal generation was 23.5% which put 2020 at 18.8%. So far that is also looking optimistic.
Only a fool would look at the “dive” coal is taking now but somehow “believing” coal will immediately level off for the future. EIA has a solid track record for being WRONG about the future of both coal and Renewables!! And all the projections talked about here are yet to include the dramatic growth in electric production likely to occur from electrification and EV’s, or the game-changing falling battery costs. Coal will be GONE by 2040 in the U.S. — someone should start a pool on when the EIA will catch up with that.
I would put money that the EIA will catch up to coal electric production about 10 years after the last coal plant in the U.S. shuts down.
Yeah, EIA has great post data, but their projections are just laughable. Coal production counts on massive scale and PRB coal counts on having massive million $$ machines. How many coal mines are already unprofitable but stay open just so the companies don’t have to do the cleanup?
Saw an article out of Wyoming last year and someone said the state is still in good shape as long as coal production was above 300Mt. Well, Wyoming didn’t have 300Mt last year. This year it is looking like 225-250Mt.
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