Renewables have outpaced nuclear and coal to start 2020


2020 has been a benchmark year for renewable generation, with the latest edition of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly report showing that renewable resources have generated more electricity through May 31st than both coal and nuclear power.

This breakout year for renewables has been highlighted by the month of May, where renewable resources reached an all-time high share of the country’s electricity generation at 25.3%. This figure, as with much of the renewable generation so far this year, was driven by hydroelectric, which accounted for nearly 17% of all electricity generated in the month.

However, while hydro has had a consistent hold on the top renewable generation source, that hold is loosening by the month. The amount of solar energy generated from January-May, when compared to the same period in 2019 and including distributed solar, is up roughly 21%, with solar now accounting for 3.3% of the nation’s total power generation.

Renewables on the rise

As fast as solar has expanded, wind is keeping equal pace, with the two resources expanding faster than all other energy sources. Combined, solar and wind provided 12.6% of total U.S. electrical generation during the first five months of the year. This mark is about 14% higher than where the two resources stood through the first five months of 2019.

And while it wouldn’t be accurate to say that any resource benefited from the Covid-19 pandemic, some have handled the pandemic and corresponding economic slowdown better than others, with a few using it as an opportunity to make up ground in the total generation share. Coal generation for the month of May was down more than 35%, compared to May 2019, accounting for roughly 21% of total generation. Nuclear power also felt the heat, dropping 4% year-over-year and also accounting for roughly 21% of total generation.

The big winner for the month of May was solar energy, which saw a more than 30% year-over-year increase in generation, the most of any resource. Geothermal and wind generation also saw year-over-year increases in generation, up 5.5% and 8.5%, respectively.

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