The U.S. energy transition is well underway as evidenced by the November 2020 electricity generation metrics. In this month, 23% of the electricity production was actually from renewable energy sources. This percentage is a net increase over previous years. At the same time, the traditional and polluting sectors of the American economy (coal, natural gas, oil exploration) survive and export.
U.S. energy transition on track
The energy transition in the United States can count on its vibrant renewable energy economy. As a result, these energies have increased from 17.2% of the U.S. electricity mix in 2018, to 23.2% in 2020. All in all, renewable energies represented almost a quarter of the country’s electricity production by the end of 2020.
The growth of wind and solar, the decline of coal
It is possible to separate the two main contributors to this percentage: wind and solar. Wind power has increased from 6.8% to 11.1% in the last two years. While solar energy increased from 1.7% to 2.8%. Also, it is possible to see some decline in coal from 28.6% in November 2018 to 20.1% in 2020.
Sustained growth in renewable energies over the last few years
Moreover, these evolutions are constant and are not the result of fashion or circumstances. In fact, if you compare 2018, 2019, and 2020, the share of renewable energy in U.S. electricity is growing steadily. It thus increases from 17.5% to 18.4% to 20.6%.
In contrast, coal fell from 27.1% to 23.3% to 18.7%. We can thus see that these developments are important and structural. In just three years, the American energy landscape has changed dramatically.
The share of renewable energies catches up with that of nuclear power
This energy transition is progressing, and we can see that the share of renewable energy in American electricity is reaching the relative share of nuclear power. It is not changing much and remains below 20% of the American electrical production.
Also, the case of natural gas is to be taken into account. Indeed, its share of U.S. electricity has been increasing every year since 2018, reaching about 40 percent by 2020. However, while natural gas is cleaner than coal or oil, it is still a fossil fuel that will eventually run out.
U.S. energy transition confronts traditional economic sectors
The energy transition in the U.S. is now allowing investors to diversify. More and more people are investing in renewable energy. As a result, about 80% of new electricity generation capacity comes from solar and wind power. This is a testament to the energy transition ambitions displayed by most players in the U.S. market.
But although investments in renewable energy are being made, this does not mean that the energy transition has already been achieved. Worse still, the highly polluting economic sectors (coal, gas, oil exploration) are also the key sectors of the American economy. In fact, some of the major players in these sectors do not seem to be ready to engage in an energy transition as quickly as hoped.
It will therefore take time to complete the energy transition in a country with such a complex electricity system and where per capita energy consumption is the highest in the world.