Houston — California continues to lead the nation in renewable generation, but multiple other states are rapidly increasing renewable capacity, and the US Energy Information Administration projects renewables will surpass natural gas generation as the lead fuel source by 2045.
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In its latest long-term forecast, EIA projected electricity generation from renewable sources such as wind and solar would surpass nuclear and coal by 2021 and surpass natural gas by 2045. The share of renewables in the US electricity generation mix is expected to increase from 19% in 2019 to 38% in 2050, according to EIA.
California has long been leading the renewables built-out in the United States, and California Independent System Operator had a record-breaking year in 2019 for its solar and wind energy.
The ISO reached a historical peak of 80.3% of renewables serving demand on May 15, with more than 51% coming from solar and nearly 19% from wind, according to the ISO. The highest amount of renewables serving peak electricity demand occurred on August 8 at 14,766 MW, or 41.8%, surpassing an August 6 record of 13,902 MW.
Other renewables records set in 2019 included a new solar generation peak record of 11,473 MW reached July 2, surpassing a June 29 record of 10,739 MW, and a new wind generation peak record of 5,309 MW reached May 8, surpassing a June 8 record of 5,193 MW, according to ISO data.
Renewable output increased from an average of about 22% in 2010 to more than 40% in 2019, according to ISO data. And there is more growth to come.
The ISO interconnection queue includes active requests for 14.5 GW of solar PV, 10.5 GW of solar PV with storage as a secondary generation source, 14.9 GW of storage with solar PV as a secondary source and 16 GW of storage with no secondary source, said Morris Greenberg, S&P Global Platts Analytics. As these projects work through the interconnection process some will be withdrawn, but others will proceed, and depending on the economics, a share will come online during the next decade.
"California is over-complying with the current [Renewable Portfolio Standard] target, and [Portfolio Content Category] 1 allowances are being banked," Greenberg said, adding that the over compliance reflects current low development costs due to the availability of investment tax credits for solar and solar/storage projects, lower than expected loads and future increases in the RPS target of 60% of retail sales in 2030.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas and Southwest Power Pool are also seeing wind and solar development activity driven by tax credit availability, not by RPS requirements, Greenberg said. As tax credits phase down and transmission congestion drives down prices, activity will slow.
With nearly 24 GW of wind capacity already, ERCOT is expected to continue to add wind generation, as well as make some significant solar additions in the coming years.
Wind capacity is projected to jump as much as 40% year on year by the end of 2020 to nearly 33,450 MW if all signed Interconnection Agreements are executed, according to ERCOT's "Capacity Changes by Fuel Type Charts" reports for January. Solar capacity could spike as much as 149% this year as well and then 105% in 2021.
Battery additions are also taking place with 262 MW expected to be added in 2020 to bring the total up to 366 MW and to as much as 568 MW in 2021, according to ERCOT data.
SPP recently set yet another renewables record when wind penetration reached 71.3% of load at 3:15 am on February 3 at 17,346 MW of the 24,329 MW in total load, according to SPP. On January 8, SPP set a wind peak record of 18,259 MW at 6:08 pm, surpassing the previous record of 17,861 MW set December 11.
Wind makes up about 23% of SPP generating capacity, behind coal at roughly 28.5% and natural gas at more than 40%, according to SPP data.
SPP projects up to 4,767 MW of solar and 7,868 MW of wind capacity will be added by 2024, according to SPP Spokesman Derek Wingfield.
California has the strongest RPS at 44% carbon-free by 2024, 60% by 2030 and 100% by 2045.
Several states updated their RPS targets in the last year. Maryland increased its near-term RPS targets to 30.5% by 2020 and extended its RPS targets out to 2030 [50%], according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Nevada increased its RPS from 25% by 2050 to 50% by 2030, and New York raised its RPS from 50% to 70% by 2030 with an offshore wind goal of 2,400 MW by 2030.
Maine updated its RPS requirements in 2019 to include an additional 40% requirement for certain renewable sources (Class IA) in addition to a 10% requirement by 2022 and each year thereafter for Class I (new) sources and 30% requirement for Class II resources, according to NCSL.
Most recently, the Virginia Assembly passed legislation that imposes a mandatory RPS of 100% renewable and zero-carbon electricity by 2045/2050 as coal/fossil and biomass units will be phased out and offshore wind, storage and energy efficiency encouraged.
In contrast, Ohio reduced its RPS from 12.5% to 8.5% by 2026, according to NCSL.
Texas already achieved its goal of 10,000 MW renewables by 2025.