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A milestone month for the renewable transition

May 02, 2022
Dennis Wamsted and Seth Feaster

April was a milestone month for utility-scale wind and solar generation in the U.S. For the first time, the two renewable resources generated more electricity than coal or nuclear power.

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, utility-scale wind and solar produced 57.73 million megawatt-hours (MWh) during the month, while coal and nuclear both generated less than 56 million MWh. Gas remained the No. 1 source of electricity during the month, producing 95.61 million MWh.

U.S. Wind, Solar Alone Top Coal for First Time

The April numbers for wind and solar mark an important step in the transition to a cleaner grid across the U.S., and highlight the rapid growth in the two resources over the past two years. For example, in April 2020, utility-scale wind and solar generated 37.58 million MWh—a 53 percent jump in just two years.

The sharp increase in generation is also pushing up renewables’ share of the overall electricity market. This is noteworthy because demand rose overall this April compared to April 2020. In other words, renewables are outgrowing the market.

It is also important to point out that the numbers do not include small-scale or rooftop solar, which is also growing quickly. Last April, EIA estimates that rooftop solar generated 4.59 million MWh. Rooftop solar also has been growing at an annual rate of 18% since 2018, which should push April’s tally to more than 5.25 million MWh and widen the lead of wind and solar over coal and nuclear power generation.

Dennis Wamsted ([email protected]) is an IEEFA analyst and editor.

Seth Feaster ([email protected]) is an IEEFA data analyst.

Dennis Wamsted

At IEEFA, Dennis Wamsted focuses on the ongoing transition away from fossil fuels to green generation resources, focusing particularly on the electric power sector.

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Seth Feaster

Seth Feaster is an energy data analyst whose work focuses on the coal industry and the U.S. power sector.

Before joining IEEFA, he created visual presentations at the New York Times for 25 years with a focus on complex financial and energy data; he also worked at The Federal Reserve Bank of New York. 

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