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New EIA Data Reveal Renewable Energy Sources Generated More Electricity Than Either Coal or Nuclear in Nearly 30 States

Ken Bossong's picture
Executive Director, SUN DAY Campaign

Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign since 1992

  • Member since 2003
  • 49 items added with 20,185 views
  • Oct 29, 2020

Renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) generated more electricity than either coal or nuclear in nearly 30 states during the first two-thirds of this year, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of just-released data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The latest issue of EIA's "Electric Power Monthly" (with data through August 31, 2020) reveals that utility-scale renewables provided more electricity than coal in 27 states and Washington, DC. [1] In addition, only a narrow gap exists between renewables and coal in three other states.[2] Four states and Washington DC have generated no electricity from coal at all this year [3] while four others have each produced less than 100 gigawatt-hours (GWh) from coal during the past eight months.[4]

Similarly, renewably-generated electricity outpaced nuclear power in 29 states plus Washington DC.[5] Of those, 21 states as well as Washington DC produced zero electricity using nuclear power this year.[6]

Notably, renewable energy sources generated more electricity than either coal or nuclear in three of the nation's four largest states (i.e., California, New York, and Texas). The six New England states have become a nearly coal-free zone while four of the region's states produced no electricity using nuclear power. Renewables also generated more electricity in the five Pacific Ocean states (i.e., Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington) than coal and nuclear power combined.

Nationwide, renewable energy sources produced more electricity during the first eight months of this year than did either coal or nuclear power.*  Including distributed (e.g., rooftop) solar, renewables accounted for 20.8% of the nation’s electrical generation during the first two-thirds of 2020 compared to 19.4% from nuclear and 18.4% from coal.

 A year ago, renewables’ share was 18.7% compared to 19.3% from nuclear and 23.6% from coal. Thus far this year, wind is providing 8.0% of U.S. electrical generation and solar is contributing 3.4%.  

"Falling wind and solar costs, renewable portfolio standards, and ever-greater concerns about climate change, are driving a transition away from coal and nuclear power in a majority of the states," noted the SUN DAY Campaign's executive director Ken Bossong. "If current patterns continue - or even accelerate - it will not be many years more before coal and nuclear are relegated to niche markets by the mix of renewable energy sources."

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*The nationwide figures cited above include EIA's "estimated small-scale solar photovoltaic" (e.g., rooftop solar systems) which account for almost a third of total solar output and about five percent of total net electrical generation by renewable energy sources. The state-specific data, though, includes only utility-scale facilities - i.e., facilities with a generating capacity of 1-MW or more. 



[1] AK, AZ, CA, CT, DC, DE, GA, HI, IA, ID, KS, MA, MD, ME, MN, MT, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, VA, VT, WA

[2] LA, NC, TN ("a narrow gap" is being defined as a difference of less than 2,000 GWh during the first eight months of 2020)

[3] DC, CT, MA, RI, VT

[4] DE, ID, ME, NH,

[5] AK, CA, CO, DC, DE, IA, ID, IN, HI, KS, KY, MA, ME, MN, MT, ND, NE, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WY

[6] AK, CO, DC, DE, ID, HI, IN, KY, MA, ME, MT, ND, NM, NV, OK, OR, RI, SD, UT, VT, WV, WY  



The latest issue of EIA's "Electric Power Monthly" was officially posted on October 26, 2020.
For the nationwide data cited in this news update, see:

For the year-to-date (i.e., thru August 31, 2020) state-specific data for coal, nuclear power, hydropower, and non-hydro renewables respectively, see:

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 29, 2020

Ken, take away non-scalable hydropower and the situation for renewables looks grim. Wind and solar generate less than half the energy of nuclear, and the gas they require for backup up emits millions of tons of CO2 each year.

Turns out "renewable" solar and wind aren't so renewable after all!


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 29, 2020

Notably, renewable energy sources generated more electricity than either coal or nuclear in three of the nation's four largest states (i.e., California, New York, and Texas).

It's great to see this happening in the big states-- and I always smile knowing Texas is among the renewable leaders. Lots of wind down in Texas!

Gary Hilberg's picture
Gary Hilberg on Nov 2, 2020

Matt - agree, wind is big in Texas and now utility scale solar is the largest capacity in the permitting queue.  The interesting issue that we are having as an energy only market is dramatic pricing swings in periods where we did not have those swings in the past.  On Oct 29, we had 4-8 hours of high prices due to an ice storm in the Texas panhandle which took almost 10,000 MW offline.  The average price of power for that day was almost 4X normal.  

Because we had dispatchable power, the grid was stable but the pricing was off the charts. It is difficult to see an economic model that would pay for 10,000 MW of storage to be in place for 4-6 hours a few times per year.

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