California solar generation increases twentyfold between 2012 and 2022

The CEC reported that the state’s solar generation increased by 24.1% between 2021 and 2022. Credit: CEC

Figures from the California Energy Commission (CEC) have revealed that solar generation in California has increased more than twentyfold between 2012 and 2022, leading a wave of renewable power generation in the state.

According to the CEC, the state’s solar generation increased from 2.6TWh to 48.9TWh over the period, and the rate of growth has remained strong in recent years, with the state’s solar generation increased by 24.1% between 2021 and 2022.

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The growth in solar capacity has also coincided with a decline in fossil fuel production, as California looks to shift its energy mix to be more reliant on renewable power. Natural gas capacity, which remains the single energy source with the largest capacity in the state, has fallen from 121.7TWh in 2012 to 96.5TWh between 2012 and 2022.

“This latest report card showing how solar energy boomed as natural gas-powered electricity experienced a steady 20% decline over the last decade is encouraging,” said CEC vice chair Siva Gunda.

“Even as climate impacts become increasingly severe, California remains committed to transitioning away from polluting fossil fuels and delivering on the promise to build a future power grid that is clean, reliable and affordable.”

Critically, despite the changes in the state’s energy mix, overall electricity production has increased, driven by renewable growth. The CEC noted that alongside the growth in solar, wind generation grew by 63% in the decade to 2022.

Total utility-scale electricity generation in California increased by 3.4% between 2021 and 2022, reaching a peak of 287.2TWh, suggesting that the greater adoption of renewable energy, and solar power in particular, has not interfered with the state’s ability to meet its energy demands.

Indeed, rooftop solar capacity, which is not considered as part of the utility-scale figures, has also increased. The state’s domestic solar capacity increased by ten times between 2012 and 2023, and accounted for 24.3TWh of power generation in 2022, around half of the state’s total solar capacity.

Strong domestic energy production has also helped California reduce its reliance on energy imports over the last decade. Between 2013 and 2022, total energy imports fell from around 95TWh to around 85TWh, peaking at close to 99TWh in 2015. While 2022 reported a slight increase in energy imports from the decade’s low of 75TWh in 2019, ensuring a strong domestic energy supply will be of continued benefit to the state.

This has also been the primary motivation behind the Inflation Reduction Act, which has sought to ensure strong domestic renewable power supply chains across the US. The act’s emphasis on sourcing power generation and energy innovation in the US has encouraged a number of moves across the California power sector, from the establishment of new manufacturing facilities to the completion of new academic research, and the state is in a prime position to continue this breadth of innovation in the future.

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