Renewables expand to 23% of US electrical generation in 2023, with solar in the lead

Renewables provided over 22.7% of US electrical generation in 2023, according to newly released end-of-year US Energy Information Administration (EIA) data.

EIA’s latest “Electric Power Monthly” (with data through December 31, 2023) reports that the combination of utility-scale and small-scale (e.g., rooftop) solar increased by 16.1% last year. Small-scale solar alone grew by 20.1% – faster than any other energy source. In December alone, small-scale solar increased by 21.4% while total solar grew by 30.7%.

As a result, by the end of 2023, solar was 5.6% of total US electrical generation. Small-scale solar accounted for 30.9% of all solar generation and provided more than 1.7% of US electricity supply last year.

Solar generation has now nearly matched hydropower (also 5.6% of the total) and should surpass it within the next few months to become the second largest renewable energy source, behind only wind.

Similarly, the mix of solar (5.6%) and wind (10%) is closing in on coal (15.9%) and seems well-positioned to overtake the fossil fuel this year. Including biomass and geothermal, the mix of all non-hydro renewables (17.1%) has already surpassed coal, which dropped in the US electricity mix by 18.8% compared to 2022.

The combination of all renewables (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) outproduced nuclear by almost a quarter (24.7%). Notwithstanding the recent addition of the Vogtle-3 reactor in Georgia, nuclear-generated electricity increased by 0.49% in 2023, while that of renewables grew by 0.52%.

Together, renewables provided over 22.7% of US electrical generation in 2023, up modestly from 22.4% in 2022. Solar’s strong growth, coupled with a 2.3% increase in geothermal, was offset by a 2.1% drop in power from wind turbines as well as 5.9% less hydropower and an 8.4% fall in biomass-generated electricity.

Nonetheless, renewables strengthened their position as the second largest source of electrical generation, behind only natural gas (42.4%).

“Led by solar, the mix of renewable energy sources have once again expanded their share of the nation’s electrical generation,” noted Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, who reviewed the data. “They now produce significantly more electricity than either nuclear power or coal and are on track to widen the gap in the year ahead.” 

Read more: The US’s largest solar panel maker is making a big impact on the US economy – in numbers

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