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Despite renewables gains, gas leads new US generation

Despite renewables gains, gas leads new US generation thumbnail

Dive Brief:

  • Despite the rise of renewable energy and the struggles of older plants such as coal, the United States’ energy infrastructure remains dominated by fossil fuels, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) May infrastructure update.
  • About 2.1 GW of new gas capacity came online in May, according to the report, compared with 312 MW of solar and no wind.
  • The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that fossil fuels’ share of energy consumption last year was the lowest in more than a century — but it was still more than 80%.

Dive Insight:

For all the news of clean energy replacing older generation, FERC’s infrastructure report illustrates that gas and coal are large and entrenched. While new gas plants are increasingly being threatened by renewables and energy storage, particularly in California, a broader view shows plants are still going strong and the decline of natural gas may be overstated.

There were 40 new generating units brought online in May, with a total capacity of 2,455 MW, giving natural gas about an 85% share of new resources.

Year-to-date numbers are more positive for the renewables industry, but also show a decline in the pace of generation construction. Since the beginning of this year, there have been 6,646 MW of new gas capacity brought online, compared to 1,956 MW of wind capacity and 1,921 MW of new solar.

U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

So far this year, 10,732 MW of new capacity have been brought online in the United States. This marks a decline from the same period of 2017 when more than 14,000 MW of new capacity came online. The drop can be seen in all of the major resources, but wind was hit hardest. New wind capacity dropped nearly 35% between the first five months of 2017 and 2018.

No new coal capacity was added in the last one and a half years.

Natural gas’ share of total installed capacity in 2018 sits at about 43.5%, followed by coal (23%), nuclear (9%), hydro (8.5%), wind, (7.7%), oil (3.5%), and solar (2.8%).

But fossil fuels’ share of the United States’ overall energy consumption, including transportation and other industries, is declining, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

U.S. Energy Information Administration

“The fossil fuel share of total U.S. energy consumption in 2017 was the lowest share since 1902, at a little more than 80%, as U.S. fossil fuel consumption decreased for the third consecutive year,” EIA said in a blog post this week.

Natural gas consumption dipped 1.4% in 2017, “a change from recent trends,” EIA said. While coal consumption has declined in eight of the past 10 years, gas consumption has increased in eight. “Overall, U.S. consumption of natural gas increased by 24% from 2005 to 2017,” EIA said.

Utility Dive

15 Comments on "Despite renewables gains, gas leads new US generation"

  1. dissident on Mon, 9th Jul 2018 6:09 pm 

    And some idiots think the US is going to supply the EU with LNG. Magical US gas that can be resold after use.

  2. Boat on Mon, 9th Jul 2018 10:01 pm 

    Elections have consequences. Hillary was a renewables fan, Trump, not so much.

  3. Makati1 on Mon, 9th Jul 2018 10:07 pm 

    Billary was and is a pathological liar Boat. Your gullibility is huge!

  4. Davy on Tue, 10th Jul 2018 5:03 am 

    The good thing about this new gas installation is it is supportive of more renewables with gas backup. The growth of wind and solar is not without merit. We are still seeing healthy renewable growth just not the kind the techno optimist want to see to solve climate change and herald in the energy transition. We are seeing the logical kind that acknowledges that renewables do not have what it takes to be a dominate energy paradigm shift but they are part of an energy future. If renewables did represent the future they would be showing that reality already. We have had enough time to be able to see this with renewables in their fight with fossil fuels. This then points to renewables being an extender and a compliment to new energy installations. In Europe we see forces of policy pushing these changes with different results. It is unclear whether policy can force a new reality. This European effort is partly “betting on the come” that the needed technology and behavioral changes will materialize if the seeds of change are planted. I agree with some of this but one must also acknowledge this forcing is still a gamble so any talk of success is overstated.

  5. JuanP on Tue, 10th Jul 2018 5:39 am 

    We don’t need renewable energy in the USA because we have more bombs and more aircraft carriers than anyone else in the world.

  6. rockman on Tue, 10th Jul 2018 9:48 am 

    Juan – And don’t forget it, amigo. LOL

  7. Boat on Tue, 10th Jul 2018 11:46 am 


    The renewable optimist dreams are still advancing. Why? Costs are still dropping. I have yet to see either wind or solar hit a development wall.
    Batteries wasn’t discussed much even 5 years ago but are now being added to commercial renewable projects. In 5 years expect this new trend to be routine.
    All this is happening while Nat gas is historically very cheap. When those prices rise expect renewables to scale at a faster rate.

  8. MASTERMIND on Tue, 10th Jul 2018 12:01 pm 


    Solar and wind are worthless..It doesn’t matter how much the cost come down, they could come down to zero..If they don’t produce very much electricity, they are worthless..All they do is add to the mix..they aren’t replacing anything..

  9. Boat on Tue, 10th Jul 2018 12:14 pm 


    Go buy coal stocks and tell me what’s being replaced. I bet you own stocks in phone booths.

  10. MASTERMIND on Tue, 10th Jul 2018 12:22 pm 


    Renewable energy ‘simply won’t work’: Top Google engineers

    Bill Gates: We need global ‘energy miracles’

    Solar and Wind produced less than one percent of total world energy in 2016 – IEA WEO 2017

    UC Davis Peer Reviewed Study: It Will Take 131 Years to Replace Oil with Alternatives
    (Malyshkina, 2010)

    University of Chicago Peer Reviewed Study: predicts world economy unlikely to stop relying on fossil fuels (Covert, 2016)

  11. tommytommywantshismommy on Tue, 10th Jul 2018 1:58 pm 

    Someday (years/decades/centuries) the bottom 4 will have to make up for the top 3. Even though even those need oil in some/most of their construction phase (or so i’d imagine). The future will become very interesting for most.

  12. rockman on Wed, 11th Jul 2018 8:09 am 

    MM – “Solar and wind are worthless…If they don’t produce very much electricity, they are worthless.” And one more person willfully keeping themselves ignorant of Texas wind power. Having posted the details many times before I won’t waste space here. I doubt the FACTS would change such a foolish OPINION anyway.

  13. simon on Wed, 11th Jul 2018 8:10 am 


    Wind and Solar do produce a ton of leccy so are not worthless, they just currently do not produce as much as thermal stations.
    The stats in this article are skewed as wind and solar come on line in a linear fashion, but CCGT come on line in large jumps, so unless a larger dataset is used, it is skewed.

    As for not replacing, when the grid operator ensures that the demand is met, if he/she can use wind/solar/hydro, they will be used first, as they are cheapest, now if they are used, the Market Operator will reject the bids of the more expensive thermal stations, so whilst stations are not being replace (Capacity Market reasons) the fuel to power them is simply not being burned


  14. fmr-paultard on Wed, 11th Jul 2018 9:25 am 

    ^mm^ my major is physics with a bachelor of arts. it means i’m destined to be a libtard and useless. this just means my electives are in history, philosophy, languages, literature. But even then we joked that we could close shop if we print out schoedinger equations and posted them in the chemistry department.

    please listen to supertard. I independently came to the conclusion that wind is highly dependent on sunlight and slightly phased offset. i said wind can be somewhat interchanged for solar panels.

    i educated eurotard on issues of puerto rico and wind. i said puerto rico has no offshore wind because they don’t have a “battery”…the land mass is too small to form the other part of the electrode.

    please ^mm^ you know supertards are beyond reproach. take time to learn something from them and from me.

  15. fmr-paultard on Wed, 11th Jul 2018 9:34 am 

    with so much energy being extracted from the atmosphere it going to create desert and cause other weird patterns around the world.

    since a wind turbine extracdt energy the system is less energetic. if it’s about carrying moisture then some part of the land is going to be drier.

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