Wind power accounted for 8.3% of US electricity generation

2020 US electricity generation data are in from the US Energy Information Administration. Crunching the numbers, renewable energy accounted for 20.6% of US electricity generation last year.

That was led by wind power, which accounted for 8.3% of US electricity generation, followed by hydropower at 7.2% and solar power at 3.3%.

As reported last month, 77–80% of new US power capacity came from solar and wind power in 2020. However, power plants typically last decades and it takes a long time for significant changes in electricity generation to show capacity trends.

If we look a little bit further back in the electricity generation data, we can see that renewables are indeed growing their share of the electricity generation pie. In 2018, 17.5% of electricity generation came from renewables — 6.5% from wind power, 6.9% from hydropower, and 2.2% from solar power.

If you did a simple extrapolation using that 2018–2020 timeframe and extending the trend to 2030, renewables would rise to 36.1% of US electricity generation by 2030, with wind rising to 17.3%, hydropower to 8.7%, and solar power to 8.8%. However, that ignores the fact that solar power capacity has been growing increasingly faster in recent times. It’s more likely solar power would grow faster and the others perhaps slower. In fact, it was just a few months ago that the International Energy Agency declared solar power the cheapest electricity in history, and it was not long before that that Tesla rolled out record-low rooftop solar power prices. There is certainly an enormous amount of potential for greater solar power growth in the US in the coming decade.

Getting to the other side of the table, the biggest loser from 2018 to 2020 in the electricity sector was coal, which dropped from 27.3% of US electricity to 19.1% of US electricity. Actually, coal was the only source with a notable drop in US electricity generation. Natural gas saw its share rise from 34.9% to 39.9% and nuclear saw its share rise slightly from 19.2% to 19.5%.

If you follow climate science and air pollution news closely, then you are probably already grumbling and grunting that 36.1% renewable energy share of US electricity generation in 2030 just doesn’t cut it. Indeed, the transition to clean electricity needs to speed up. Perhaps the more significant renewable energy domination of new power capacity will help. Renewables grew from 18.3% in 2019 to 20.6% in 2020. A 2.3% increase in renewable energy share each year would at least lead to 43.6% renewable energy share by 2030.

We’ll see, and CleanTechnica will certainly be tracking it, as we have been for the past decade.

Regarding the month of December, that is typically not the best month for renewables, and in 2020 the share came to 20.1%, a bit below the full-year total of 20.6%. Though, wind and solar accounted for 11.6% in December just as they did for the year as a whole. And the year-over-year increases in the month of December were as follows:

SourceDecember 2018December 2019December 2020
Solar + Wind8.5%9.4%11.6%

Do you have any additional thoughts on the December or 2020 electricity generation split in the United States, or in the trends from 2018 through 2020? If you have any forecasts to share for the coming decade, feel free to chime in down in the comments with those as well.

Zachary Shahan,