Renewable power generation overtook coal in the US last year

Natural gas is still the largest electricity source, however.

REUTERS/Mike Blake

Renewables are already producing more energy than fossil fuels in Europe, and now the US is approaching that milestone. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has determined that renewable power generation overtook coal in 2022, with 4,090 million megawatt-hours coming from solar, wind, hydroelectric, biomass and geothermal technology. These green sources leapt past nuclear in 2021, but widened the gap last year. They have about 21 percent share combined.

The shift came through the combination of increasing renewable capacity and coal's years-long decline. Wind was the dominant source of clean electricity, with the capacity jumping from 133 gigawatts in 2021 to 141 gigawatts a year later. Hydro was second, followed by utility-level solar, biomass and geothermal. Coal dropped to 20 percent share due to both the closure of some plants and the reduced use of others. Nuclear has remained relatively steady, but the shutdown of Michigan's Palisades powerplant saw it dip to 19 percent.

It might not surprise you to hear which states dominated certain renewable energy sources. Sunny California was the leader in solar power generation with 26 percent of the output, while Texas had a similar slice of wind generation. Texas also has the largest shares of coal and natural gas, although its lead in those areas is only slight.

Renewables weren't the top power source in 2022 — that distinction went to natural gas, which claimed a 39 percent share. However, it's evident that clean tech has a firm foothold in the US despite attempts to undermine it through regulation. We'd expect the trends to continue, too. President Biden's administration has heavily promoted renewable electricity, including the approval of the first large offshore wind farm in the country, while the EIA expects coal use to shrink to 17 percent. Natural gas may retain a comfortable lead, but it now has a new chief rival.