Electricity generated from renewable energy sources surpassed electricity created by coal for the first time ever in the U.S. in 2022, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced yesterday.
Coal-fired electricity generation dropped from 23% of total generation in 2021 to 20% in 2022. Meanwhile, the increase in renewable electricity generation was led by wind and solar. Combined, generation from these two energy sources increased from 12% in 2021 to 14% in 2022. The share of electricity from other renewable sources—hydropower, biomass, and geothermal—did not change between 2021 and 2022.
Though less coal is great news for decreasing pollution and emissions, that doesn’t mean that all forms of fossil fuel-based energy saw a decline. Natural gas remained the largest source of electricity generation in the country, according to the EIA report. Energy production from natural gas also increased from a 37% share of U.S. electricity generation in 2021 to 39% last year.
Texas, a state notorious for loving fossil fuels (and suppressing climate science education) actually led in wind energy production last year. The state’s production in part boosted the renewable energy increase from 2021 to 2022. Texas and several other red states accounted for a large share of the country’s wind generation last year: Texas accounted for 25% of generation, Iowa 10%, and Oklahoma 9%.
California led in solar energy production, producing 26% of the country’s utility-scale solar electricity. Texas came in second, generating 16% of solar electricity. Texas also led in natural gas- and coal-generated electricity, according to the analysis.
The EIA predicted that the decline in coal-generated electricity would continue this year, while solar-generated electricity would increase in 2023. Gregory Wetstone, the CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy, told the Associated Press that the growth in renewable electricity generation is supported by how affordable this source of energy has become
“Over the past decade, the levelized cost of wind energy declined by 70 percent, while the levelized cost of solar power has declined by an even more impressive 90 percent,” he said.