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For the first time ever, US renewable energy outperformed coal

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According to recently disclosed federal data, the generation of renewable electricity in the United States outpaced coal for the first time last year. Although experts agree that far faster progress is required to meet global climate targets, the study represents a significant turning point in the transition to renewable energy. According to the Energy Information Administration, combined wind and solar generation climbed from 12% of national power production in 2021 to 14% in 2022. For a total contribution of 21% renewables last year, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower each contributed another 7%. A 20% percentage of electricity was generated by coal, down from 23% in 2021, but the figure was just over that.

According to the organization, a rise in newly added wind and solar capacity was mostly responsible for the increase in renewable electricity. Last year, Texas was the top wind-producing state, accounting for more than 25% of all wind power in the country. Moreover, it was the #1 state for coal and natural gas electricity. With 10% and 9% of the nation’s wind power, respectively, Iowa and Oklahoma came in second and third in wind generating. With 26% of the country’s solar electricity, California took the lead in the sector. North Carolina came in second with 8%, followed by Texas in second with 16%. Also, after eclipsing nuclear generation for the first time in 2021, renewable generation outpaced it for the second year in a row.

Yet, the study concluded that the country’s energy mix is still dominated by fossil fuels. Natural gas continued to be the dominant source of electricity in the US; its proportion of electricity generation increased from 37% in 2021 to 39% in 2022. The Energy Information Administration predicts that renewable energy will continue to expand in 2023. This year, the organization expects that the share of wind energy in total electricity generation would rise from 11% to 12%. The predicted increase for solar is from 4% to 5%. The predicted reduction in coal from 20% to 17% is further. The production of natural gas is anticipated to stay the same.

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Despite the good news, some energy experts claim that the increase in renewable energy is still not happening quickly enough. According to a report released on Tuesday by the intergovernmental International Renewable Energy Agency, annual expenditures in renewable energy must more than quadruple for the world to reach the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). The assessment is consistent with the most recent study of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s foremost authority on climate science, which advocated for a swift reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, which are primarily caused by fossil fuels.

The $369 billion in clean energy spending approved by the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act should have a “tremendous” influence on quickening the expansion of domestic renewable energy, according to Melissa Lott. But in order to realize that potential, the United States may require new regulations to eliminate roadblocks to the development of new renewable energy infrastructure.

Practical obstacles, such as long wait times when connecting projects to deteriorating power networks, have slowed down the rapid development of renewable energy in the United States. Thousands of solar, wind, and battery storage projects were eager to link to the nation’s grids by the end of 2021. Less than 20% of the wind and solar projects waiting to be linked, according to data from the Department of Energy, are successfully finished. However, even after a project has been approved, the developers frequently learn they must pay for additional transmission lines in order to supply homes and businesses with electricity. These transmission lines frequently have additional permitting snags.

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According to Spencer Nelson, managing director of research at the nonprofit ClearPath Foundation, “It doesn’t matter how inexpensive the clean energy is.” Spencer Nelson recently told the New York Times. “We won’t achieve our climate change goals if developers can’t move the interconnection process along quickly enough and get enough steel in the ground.”

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