The US Energy Information Administration forecasts that the largest increases in US electricity generation this summer (June, July, and August) will come from solar, wind, and natural gas-fired power plants because of new generating capacity coming online, according to its June report ‘Short-term energy outlook’. The rise in generation from these sources will likely be offset by reduced generation from coal-fired power plants. Between June 2022 and May 2023, about 11 GW of US coal capacity retired, and EIA expects 15% (36.0 TWh) less coal-fired generation this summer compared with summer 2022.
Natural gas remains the primary source of generation in the electric power sector, and EIA expects U.S. natural gas-fired generation to grow by 3%, or 16.7 TWh, this summer compared with 2022. Additional natural gas-fired generating capacity and favourable fuel costs are the primary drivers of this forecast increase.
A large proportion of the new generating capacity built in the United States over the past few years is powered by solar or wind. The electric power sector added an estimated 14.5 GW of solar generating capacity and about 8.0 GW of wind capacity during the 12 months ending May 31, 2023.
Wind power has been the leading source of new renewable electricity generation in recent years and is an especially important component of the generation mix for some regions during the spring months. EIA forecasts that wind-powered generation this summer will be 7% (5.8 TWh) higher than in summer 2022.
Much of the solar-powered capacity installed in recent months is concentrated in Texas and California. EIA expects that new solar capacity will lead to a 24% (10.8 TWh) increase in solar generation this summer compared with the summer pf 2022. Many solar projects are also being built with associated battery storage systems to help provide power when solar and wind resources are low. The electric power sector has added an estimated 5.3 GW of battery capacity in the past 12 months, a nearly 90% increase.
In addition to the continuing growth in generation from renewable energy sources, EIA forecasts 4.5 TWh more nuclear generation this summer than in summer 2022 as result of the planned commercial start of a new reactor at the Vogtle nuclear power plant. In contrast to this newly added capacity, a number of reactors at other nuclear plants have retired in recent years.
Data source: US Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, June 2023