Renewable resources dropped back below 50% of new power generation in the second quarter of 2019. Although the proportion of distributed solar has grown in the last two quarters, losses in the growth of utility solar and wind allowed the majority share to be gas, once again. Despite this setback in percentage, renewables are making up a greater portion of new capacity than they have in previous second quarters of 2017 and 2018.
In the chart below, we illustrate the past several years of new power plant capacity in the U.S., disaggregated by energy source on a quarterly basis.
Fracked Gas Makes Up a Majority of New Capacity, for Now
Gas’s portion of new capacity grew by 12 percent this quarter. However, new research from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) predicts that utilities continuing this gas construction habit will have trouble paying for the plants to operate beyond 2035. According to their study “The Growing Market for Clean Energy Portfolios,” clean energy portfolios are cost competitive, and in some cases cheaper, than building new gas plants.
State regulators should pay particularly close attention to gas plant proposals. In Minnesota, the Public Utilities Commission unanimously rejected a gas plant purchase (the Mankato Energy Center) by Xcel Energy last week.
Distributed Solar Grows as Utility Solar Falters
This quarter, utility-scale solar hit its lowest total new capacity (395 megawatts) since the first quarter of 2015 (352 megawatts). Meanwhile, for the seventh consecutive quarter, small-scale solar added more than 850 megawatts of new capacity nationally.
Distributed solar has gained two percentage points this quarter, solidifying its history of consistent growth. Though reductions in utility solar and wind growth are discouraging for renewable energy advocates, these technologies have seen large fluctuations quarter-to-quarter. The outlook of small-scale solar still looks promising.
As more cities across the country look for creative ways to meet ambitious targets for energy independence and 100 percent renewable energy, the future continues to look bright for investments in local, renewable power.