Renewable Energy Provided 24% of US Electricity in December

Renewable energy sources — particularly solar and wind energy — now dominate new US power capacity installations. But they don’t dominate electricity generation in the country.

December 2021 Renewable Energy Generation

In the month of December 2021, renewable energy sources accounted for 23.8% of electricity generation across the United States. Wind energy alone accounted for 11.9%, while solar energy accounted for 2.7%.

The good news is this is notably up from December 2019 and December 2020. In December 2019, those figures were 17.5% from renewable energy, 7.8% from wind energy, and 1.6% from solar energy. In December 2020, they had improved to 19.4%, 9.2%, and 2.2%, respectively. So, you can see that all of the new solar and wind power capacity does lead to noticeable increases in electricity generation from renewable sources. It’s just that the grid is so large and power plants have such long lifespans that even 100% of new power capacity coming from renewable power plants just means a modest increase in renewable energy’s share of electricity supply.

In December 2019 and December 2020, both nuclear and coal produced more electricity than renewable energy sources. In December 2021, renewables had passed both of them up and had a solid lead — 23.8% of electricity compared to 20.6% from nuclear power plants and 17.5% from coal power plants.

Interestingly, hydropower (part of the renewable energy supply) also saw a jump in production in that timeframe. It grew from 6.3% in December 2019 and 6.2% in December 2020 to 7.5% in December 2021.

Let’s now look at full-year comparisons.

2021 Renewable Energy Generation

It’s a similar story for the full year, but the numbers aren’t quite as good as in December — which is perhaps just a sign that the story keeps getting better month to month, or is simply due to variations in the seasons and winter being a big month for wind power.

Renewables accounted for 21% of US electricity in 2021, up from 18.3% in 2019 and 20.3% in 2020.

Solar and wind account for the majority of that piece of the pie, 13% of all US electricity production in 2021, up from 9.7% in 2019 and 11.6% in 2020.

Renewables already hit their crossover point with coal and nuclear in 2020, but the bad news is that renewables dropped just below coal’s level in 2020 again — 21% versus 21.6%.

For a closer look at the numbers mentioned above and several others, and/or to see interactive versions of the charts above, become a member of CleanTechnica Pro and check in there tomorrow evening (log in here).

You can also look at source data on the U.S. EIA website here and here. See our previous US electricity generation reports for more historical context.


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