Home News & Features U.S. Wind & Solar Combined Now Providing More U.S. Electricity Than Coal

U.S. Wind & Solar Combined Now Providing More U.S. Electricity Than Coal


WASHINGTON, D.C.—According to a review by the SUN DAY Campaign of data just released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), wind and solar combined now provide more generating capacity and produce more electricity than coal.

The latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report (with data through February 28, 2023) reveals that in the first two months of this year, electrical generation by solar (including small-scale distributed systems) grew by 6.7 percent, compared to the same two-month period in 2022—faster than any other energy source. This was driven in large part by growth in “estimated” small-scale (e.g., rooftop) solar photovoltaic (PV) whose output increased by 23.6 percent and accounted for 32.5 percent of total solar production.

The mix of utility-scale and small-scale solar PV plus utility-scale solar thermal provided 3.9 percent of the nation’s electrical output.

Simultaneously, electrical generation by wind increased by 6.6 percent compared to the same period a year ago and provided 12.2 percent of total electrical generation. Thus, wind and solar combined provided 16.1 percent—or nearly one-sixth—of U.S. electrical generation in the first two months of 2023.

Coal Percentage Shrinks 

By comparison, electrical generation by coal plummeted by 32.7 percent and provided just 16.0 percent of total U.S. electrical generation.

When generation by all renewable energy sources (i.e., including biomass, geothermal, and hydropower) is considered, renewables accounted for nearly a quarter (24.1 percent) of total generation and out-produced coal by 50.8 percent. Electrical production by the mix of renewables also surpassed that of nuclear power by 21.9 percent.

Meanwhile, just-published data from FERC—also for the first two months of 2023—shows that wind energy’s share of total available installed utility-scale generating capacity has grown to 11.5 percent while that of solar is now at 6.6 percent. Combined, wind and solar account for 18.1 percent of installed U.S. generating capacity. On the other hand, coal’s share has continued its downward slide and is now just 17.1 percent of the total.

Moreover, the mix of all renewables now accounts for 27.6 percent of the nation’s generating capacity and appears to be on track for rapid expansion over the next three years.

Much More Wind, Solar Expected 

Between now and February 2026, FERC anticipates 17,690 megawatts (MW) of “high probability” net capacity additions by wind and 77,791-MW of “high probability” solar. FERC also reports that there may be as much as 66,322-MW of wind and 213,969-MW of solar in the three-year pipeline.

In contrast, no new coal capacity additions are anticipated, and total installed coal capacity may shrink by 28,507-MW. The net “high probability” capacities of both oil and natural gas are also seen as declining—by 1,572-MW and 574-MW respectively—while that of nuclear power may fall by 123-MW.

“The trend lines are fairly obvious,” noted the SUN DAY Campaign’s Executive Director Ken Bossong. “The gaps between the installed capacity of, and electrical generation by, renewable energy sources—led by wind and solar—and those of coal and nuclear power are not just growing but accelerating rapidly.”