Renewables increased energy output by more than 12% in 2022

According to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data just released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy sources provided almost 23% of the nation’s electrical generation in 2022.

The latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report (with data through December 31) reveals that renewable energy sources (including small-scale solar systems) increased their electrical output by 12.37% last year compared to 2021. By comparison, electrical generation by all energy sources combined grew by just 3.47%.

In 2022, renewables provided 22.58% of total U.S. electrical generation versus 20.79% a year ago. Accordingly, they modestly surpassed EIA’s earlier forecast of renewables providing 22% of U.S. electricity in the calendar year 2022.

Once again, solar was the fastest-growing renewable energy source. Output by solar increased by 24.14% and its share of total U.S. electrical generation for the year was 4.74%. A year earlier, solar’s share was 3.95%. Five years ago, it was 1.91% and at the end of 2012, solar’s share was only 0.11%.

Electrical generation by wind also expanded significantly — growing by 14.97% and providing over a tenth (10.11%) of total U.S. electrical generation in 2022. Combined, solar and wind contributed nearly 15% (14.85%) of the nation’s electrical output last year.

In addition, generation by hydropower grew 4.14% and accounted for 6.09% of the total. Electrical output by geothermal as well as wood and wood-derived fuels also increased by 6.43% and 0.29% respectively. Only generation by “other biomass” fell — by 5.06%.

Taken together, in 2022, renewable energy sources comfortably out-produced both coal and nuclear power by 17.18% and 25.90% respectively. However, natural gas continued to dominate with a 39.27% share of total generation.

Renewables’ growing share of U.S. electrical generation last year mirrored their expansion in other sectors such as transportation and heating.

For example, a second EIA report — its “Monthly Energy Review” released last week — reveals that the mix of renewable energy sources, including biofuels, accounted for 13.03% of total U.S. energy production during the first 11 months of 2022. For the same period a year earlier, renewables’ share was 12.50%.

On the consumption side, renewables were 13.20% of energy use during the first 11 months of 2022. Renewables were 12.43% of energy consumption during the same time period a year earlier. Actual consumption of renewables increased by 8.96%, while total energy use for all sectors increased by just 2.59%.

“Last year set a new record for renewably generated electricity in the U.S.,” noted the SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director Ken Bossong. “Renewables are now on track to reach one-quarter of electrical generation in 2023 as well as one-seventh of total domestic energy production and then accelerate in the years to follow.”

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