Renewable energy electricity capacity surpasses coal in the US

The US can now theoretically produce more electricity from renewable sources than coal for the first time in its history, according to analysis by sustainable energy research group SUN DAY Campaign.

The research team investigated latest monthly data from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), and found that renewable energy capacity in the US had surpassed that of coal in April 2019.

FERC’s Energy Infrastructure Update report noted that 18 units of new wind capacity (1,545MW) and 102 units of new solar capacity (1,473MW) were added during the first four months of this year, along with four units of new hydropower (29MW).

These additions were enough to push renewable energy’s share of total available installed US generating capacity up to 21.56%, while the total proportion of coal’s electrical capacity dropped to 21.55%.

FERC’s data also shows that the US has been adding a percentage point, on average, each year to its renewable energy capacity, with utility-scale solar more than doubling in the past three years from 1.42% to 3.23%, and wind’s share increasing from 6.43% to 8.25%.

Meanwhile, the report suggested that coal’s total generation capacity will continue to fall as retirements exceed additions. US coal consumption plunged by 39% to its lowest level in 40 years, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

“Coal has no technology path,” said Jeff McDermott, managing partner at Greentech Capital Advisors, a boutique investment bank focused on clean energy. “It’s got nowhere to go but extinction.”