FERC releases energy infrastructure update through September

By SUN DAY Campaign | October 27, 2015

In yet another confirmation of where the nation's energy future is headed, renewable sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) accounted for more than 60 percent of the 7,276 MW of new electrical generation placed in service in the United States during the first nine months of 2015.

According to the recently released "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, 26 new "units" of wind accounted for 2,966 MW of new generating capacity—or more than 40 percent of all new capacity year-to-date. Among renewable sources, solar followed with 1,137 MW (142 units), biomass with 205 MW (16 units), geothermal steam with 45 MW (1 unit) and hydropower with 27 MW (18 units). Thirty-four units of natural gas contributed 2,884 MW.

FERC reported no new capacity for the year-to-date from nuclear power and just 9 MW from six units of oil and 3 MW from one unit of coal. Thus, new capacity from renewable energy sources during the first three-quarters of 2015 is 1,460 times greater than that from coal while new capacity from wind alone exceeds that from natural gas.

For just the month of September, wind (448 MW) again dominated, with 54.83 percent of new capacity followed by natural gas (346 MW) and solar (20 MW).

Renewable energy sources now account for 17.4 percent of total installed operating generating capacity in the U.S.: water, 8.6 percent; wind, 5.9 percent; biomass, 1.4 percent; solar, 1.1 percent; and geothermal steam, 0.3 percent. For comparison, renewables were 16.4 percent of capacity in September 2014 and 15.7 percent in September 2013. The share of total installed capacity from solar alone has more than doubled over the past two years (1.1 percent vs. 0.5 percent). Total installed capacity from non-hydro renewables (8.8 percent) now exceeds that from conventional hydropower (8.6 percent).

Renewable electrical capacity is now greater than that of nuclear (9.2 percent) and oil (3.9 percent) combined. In fact, the installed capacity of wind power alone has now surpassed that of oil. On the other hand, generating capacity from coal has declined from 28.9 percent in September 2013 to 26.6 percent today. 

"With Congress and numerous states now questioning the ability of renewable energy sources to meet targets called for in the Administration's new Clean Power Plan, the explosive growth of wind, solar, biomass, hydropower and geothermal in recent years confirms that it can be done," said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. "In fact, the latest FERC data suggests that the CPP's goals are unduly modest and renewables will handily surpass them."

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released its most recent six-page "Energy Infrastructure Update," with data through Sept. 30. See the tables titled "New Generation In-Service (New Build and Expansion)" and "Total Installed Operating Generating Capacity" at:  http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2015/sep-infrastructure.pdf   .