According to the SUN DAY Campaign, a review of data released by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), wind and solar combined produced more electricity than coal in the first quarter of 2023, virtually tying nuclear power in March.
The latest edition of the EIA’s Electric Power Monthly report (with data up to March 31, 2023) shows that solar power generation (including small-scale distributed systems) grew by 7.8% in the first quarter of this year, compared to In the same period of 2022. This was largely driven by growth in “rated” small-scale (rooftop) solar PV, whose output grew by 24.0%, faster than any other energy source, and accounted for nearly a third (32.8%) : ) of total solar production.
A mix of utility-scale and small-scale solar PV, as well as utility-scale solar thermal, provided 4.4% of the country’s electricity in the first three months of 2023.
Meanwhile, wind power generation grew 5.3% year-over-year to account for one-eighth (12.5%) of total US electricity generation. In the first quarter of 2023, wind and solar combined provided 16.9% of the country’s electricity, or more than one-sixth.
By comparison, coal-fired electricity generation fell 28.6% to account for just 15.6% of total US electricity generation in the first quarter. In March alone, the country’s wind turbines produced almost as much electricity (44,355 GWh) as coal (49,863 GWh).
Electricity generation from nuclear power fell 0.6% in the first quarter and outpaced wind and solar combined. However, March’s wind-solar mix practically tied nuclear power alone, with 62,734 GWh compared to 62,820 GWh. Current rates of solar and wind growth suggest they will eventually overtake nuclear power generation for part or all of this year, the report said.
When all renewable energy production (including biomass, geothermal and hydropower) is considered, renewable energy accounted for a quarter of total production (24.9%) in the first three months of this year. That’s higher than their share (24.2%) in the first quarter of 2022, despite declines in hydropower (down 15.5%), wood and biomass (down 6.2%) and geothermal (down 3.6%) .
Thus, electricity produced by the full mix of renewable energy sources exceeded coal production by 59.5%. Renewable electricity generation also exceeded nuclear power generation by 28.2%. Only natural gas, which accounts for 39.3 percent of the total, provides more electricity than renewables.
“Renewables have been outpacing coal and nuclear for some time now, with only wind and solar combined, which is already ahead of coal this year and on track to overtake nuclear,” it said. Ken Bossong, executive director of SUN DAY Campaign. “Renewables are also well positioned to provide more than a quarter of the country’s electricity generation by 2023.”
News from The SUN DAY campaign