Originally published on CleanTechnica
According to Utility Dive, 2015 renewable electricity accounted for 61% of 2015 electricity capacity additions in 2015 across the United States, while natural gas contributed 35% of the total.
This is encouraging news for clean energy proponents addressing escalating challenges from climate change.
In short, here are the Utility Dive highlights:
- While electricity capacity additions in the US slowed in 2015, renewable generation made up more than half of the 14,468 MW completed in 2015
- Wind accounted for 47% of new generation capacity, followed by natural gas (35%) and solar (14%)
- The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has predicted that capacity additions would begin to slow
- From 2018 to 2024 the EIA estimates additions will average less than 4 GW annually
Add Energy Efficiency Into This Calculation
While new electricity capacity additions may be slowing, efficiency and demand management techniques have made new generation less necessary nationwide. In addition, new plants that are added are largely cleaner than in years past, SNL Energy reports.
The combination of wind, solar and natural gas, totaling 96%, makes up the majority of new capacity additions for 2015, according to SNL’s data. Coal and oil combined for less than 1%.
Wholesale Prices Decline In 2015
According to the EIA, wholesale electricity prices at major trading hubs on a monthly average basis for on-peak hours were down 27%-37% across the nation in 2015 compared with 2014. Much of the price decline is attributed to lower natural gas prices. “Because natural gas-fired generation sets the marginal price in many markets, wholesale electricity prices are sensitive to changes in natural gas prices,” states the report.
Those figures are similar to what EIA noted last year: that renewable power made up 70% of new generation in the first half of 2015. But SNL’s data appears to show gas additions made up some ground, ultimately consisting of more than a third of additions last year.
In the end, gas and wind together totaled 11,848 MW of the 14,468 MW installed in the U.S. last year — 82% of the total. 2,010 MW of solar made it the third largest resource in capacity added in 2015, with 14% of the total.
Record low prices have driven a big “build cycle” for wind energy, according to a study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Low power purchase agreement prices and the Clean Power Plan could help spur wind’s growth in 2016, especially as the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill that included extensions for the solar investment tax credit and wind’s production tax credit.
According to EIA, new power additions through 2017 will average about 17 GW annually, with about half of that being non-hydro renewable power. From 2018 to 2024 EIA estimates capacity additions will average less than 4 GW annually. That’s a large shift from the 26 GW added each year between 2000 and 2013.
Image: Ecological infographic via Shutterstock