Solar electricity output in the US outpaced all other renewables and grew by nearly a quarter (24.3%) in the first three months of 2021 compared to last year, new data from the country’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) has shown
Electricity from solar and wind also accounted for 16.8% of the US production as a whole in March, setting a new record for their contribution to the power mix, according to an analysis of the figures by campaign group Sun Day, which said that the growth of both power sources more than made up for a drop in electricity from others. Hydropower and biomass electricity output fell by 7.5% and 3.6% respectively, but renewables as a whole still grew 4.4% in the first quarter of the year. Its total share of the power mix also grew slightly between January and March, from 21.2% to 21.6%.
Solar’s contribution to electricity production continued to grow steadily in March, rising by 35.5% compared to March 2020. The group revealed earlier this year that solar power accounted for 2.4% of the country’s electricity mix in January.
Although coal-fired electricity made a “comeback” at the start of the year and continued to exceed the contribution of renewables across the whole quarter, renewable energy overtook it in March by 29.6%. Natural gas output, meanwhile, has continued to decline as renewable electricity steadily rises. Today natural gas accounts for 34.3% of the US’ electricity mix, compared with 39.2% in the first quarter of 2020. The campaign group found at the end of 2020 that solar PV power capacity installations outstripped that of natural gas last year, accounting for 29.7% of new additions.
Kevin Bossong, Sun Day’s executive director, said that the latest data demonstrates that President Biden’s energy transition targets, including decarbonising the power mix by 2035, are “within reach”, with the whole renewables sector set to contribute “at least a quarter of the nation’s electricity within five years and, with additional support, considerably more.”