The Grand Renewable Solar Farm in Haldimand County, outside of Hamilton, as seen from the air. (SNGRDC)
  • In the first half of 2023, renewable energy made up 25.11% of U.S. electrical generation, led by a 12.44% growth in solar.
  • However, wind and hydropower saw declines of 5.16% and 10.80%, respectively, indicating a mixed landscape for renewables.

Washington DC – 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 a quarter of the nation’s electrical generation during the first half of 2023 – a slight increase from 2022.

The latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report (with data through June 30, 2023) reveals that in the first six months of this year, electrical generation by the mix of renewables (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for 25.11% of U.S. electrical generation. That share is up slightly from the 25.06% reported for the first half of 2022.

Solar (including small-scale distributed systems) grew by 12.44%, compared to the same period in 2022. This was driven in large part by growth in “estimated” small-scale (e.g., rooftop) solar PV whose output increased by 25.59% – more than any other energy source -and accounted for nearly a third (31.42%) of total solar production. For the six-month period, solar was 5.77% of total U.S. electrical generation. A year earlier, solar’s share was 4.95%.

Moreover, in June – for the second time this year – solar’s monthly electrical generation significantly exceeded that of hydropower (by 21.83% in April and by 28.57% in June).

From January to June, solar combined with wind accounted for 17.11% of the nation’s electrical generation – up from 16.48% for the same period a year earlier. For the six-month period, solar plus wind easily surpassed coal’s share (14.82%) as electrical generation by the latter plummeted by 27.33%.

Further, electrical generation by the mix of all renewables exceeded that provided by nuclear power – whose output fell by 0.67% – by more than a third (33.69%).

However, EIA’s data also revealed some potentially worrisome trends for continued growth in electrical generation by renewable sources. Compared to the first six months of 2022, electrical generation by wind fell by 5.16% during the first half of this year. Most other renewables also recorded declines: hydropower down by 10.80%, wood + other biomass down by 7.80%, and geothermal down by 2.68%.

Notwithstanding those declines, renewables were still able to claim a slightly larger share of overall generation in the first half of 2023 compared to the same six-month period a year earlier because electrical generation by the mix of nuclear power and fossil fuels fell by even larger amounts while utility-scale and small-scale solar continued to grow.

The negative trend lines for renewables were even more pronounced in just the month of June when hydropower output was down by 27.00% compared to a year earlier while wind fell 17.97%. In fact, among renewable energy sources, only solar recorded some growth for the month (up 14.74%) compared to June 2022.

“Solar continues to show strong growth and is now rivaling the output of hydropower,” noted the SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director Ken Bossong. “Moreover, the mix of solar, wind and other renewables is maintaining a strong lead over both coal and nuclear power as well.”

Derick Lila
Derick is a Clark University graduate—and Fulbright alumni with a Master's Degree in Environmental Science, and Policy. He has over a decade of solar industry research, marketing, and content strategy experience.

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