Wednesday, August 17, 2022

US renewable energy hit record 28% in April. What’s driving the change?

HomescienceUS renewable energy hit record 28% in April. What's driving the change?

In April, the percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources reached a new high of 28 percent, demonstrating the growing importance of renewable energy in the U.S. energy market.

Peter Kelly-Detwiler, an energy analyst and author of “The Energy Switch,” a recent book about the transition to a carbon-free energy economy, stated, “It’s a ‘Wow’ moment.”

The share of U.S. electricity generated by wind, solar, and hydroelectric dams has consistently increased from 8.6 percent in April 2001 to 28 percent this April. The U.S. Energy Information Administration, which oversees national energy data, revealed these figures this week.

What causes the increase?

There are numerous explanations. Wind and solar installations have dominated U.S. energy construction.

Harrison Fell, an economist and engineer at Columbia University, where he co-directs the Power Sector and Renewables Research Initiative, stated that wind, solar, and natural gas have been the only additions to the grid during the previous decade.

This occurrence has two causes. The first is price. Kelly-Detwiler stated that renewables are the most economically competitive source of energy currently accessible.

In 2021, a new wind turbine produced one megawatt-hour of power for between $26 and $50. According to Lazard, a financial advising firm that releases annual estimates of the cost of producing power, the same quantity of electricity from the cheapest type of natural gas plant ranged from $45 to $74.

Fell said that federal and state mandates and incentives to boost the usage of clean energy are also beneficial.

“When you do the math on what’s the most profitable item to add at this point, it’s usually wind and solar,” he explained.

Was the climate a factor?

Yes. April is always a windy month, and this spring was windier than usual, according to Fell.

In the spring, there is also less energy from fossil fuels and nuclear power entering the system. During this time, fossil fuel and nuclear power plants conduct maintenance and refuelling, reducing their output, he explained.

The fact that wind and solar power produced more electricity than nuclear units in April was a further surprise.

Historically, approximately 20 percent of the nation’s electricity has been reliably produced by carbon-neutral nuclear power plants. In April, this percentage dipped to 18 percent, while the total wind and solar energy accounted for 19.6 percent.

The nuclear decline is due in part to the closure of two facilities in the past year, Indian Point in New York and Palisades in Michigan, as well as maintenance-related closures.

Will this pattern persist?

When all carbon-neutral energy sources in the United States – nuclear, wind, hydropower, and solar – are combined, about 46 percent of U.S. electricity in April came from carbon-neutral sources, according to federal data.

Kelly-Detwiler referred to the event as a “milestone” In a few years, though, we will look back and remark, ‘This was a good stepping stone to the next ‘Wow!’ event.