By - Jim Vess

Renewables poised to overtake coal and nuclear power in 2021, natural gas in 2045

Energize Weekly, February 12, 2020

Renewables are set to overtake both coal-fired and nuclear generation by 2021 and natural gas-fired generation by 2045, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Wind and solar are leading the surge in renewable generation, which EIA says will account for 21 percent of the total electricity in 2021, while nuclear makes up 19 percent of total generation and coal 21 percent.

In 2010, 46 percent of U.S. electricity was generated by coal-fired plants, in 2050 the share is projected to be 13 percent. Nuclear generation will account for 12 percent of total generation in 2050.

As for renewables and natural gas, the agency projects the share of renewable generation to grow to 38 percent in 2050 from 19 percent in 2019, while natural gas declines to 36 percent in 2050 from 37 percent in 2020. The crossover of the two types of generation is projected to take place in 2045.

“Wind and solar account for about half the renewable energy today and will account for nearly 80 percent of the renewable total in 2050. New wind capacity additions continue at much lower levels after the federal production tax credits for wind projects expire in the early 2020,” the EIA said.

The growth in photovoltaic (PV) solar in both utility-scale projects and small-scale arrays, such as rooftop solar, will continue as prices for PV are projected to decline, the EIA said.

“Conventional hydroelectric generation remains relatively unchanged in absolute terms and becomes a smaller portion of the generation mix as other sources of electricity generation increase,” EIA said. In 2019 hydropower accounted for 37 percent of renewable generation.

The 2050 renewable breakdown EIA projects is 46 percent solar, 33 percent wind, 14 percent hydroelectric, 3 percent geothermal and 5 percent other types of renewable generation.

“Renewable generation grows in all regions of the United States,” the EIA said, “but the preferred technology type depends on the availability of renewable energy resources. Wind-powered generation grows the most in the West and Mid-Continent regions, and solar-powered generation grows the most in the Southeast. Offshore wind is only built off the coast of the Northeast and the PJM Interconnection.”

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