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Latest Data Book Shows U.S. Renewable Capacity Surpassed 20% for First Time in 2018

Growth Continues in U.S. Installed Wind and Solar Photovoltaic Capacity, Energy Storage, and Electric Vehicle Sales

Feb. 18, 2020

Renewable electricity achieved a power-sector milestone in 2018, surpassing 20% (249 gigawatts [GW]) of U.S. total electricity generating capacity (1.2 terawatts [TW]) for the first time, according to the 2018 Renewable Energy Data Book. Since 2009, renewable generation in the United States has increased by a factor of five.

Published annually by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Renewable Energy Data Book presents U.S. and global energy statistics compiled from numerous data sources.

Produced by NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center, the Data Book includes renewable electricity generation, renewable energy development, clean energy investments, and technology-specific data. The 2017 and 2018 editions also include data and trends for electric vehicles and energy storage technologies.

"Our aim is to make this abundance of energy information understandable and accessible to a wide audience—from the interested public to the research community to the decision maker," said NREL Energy Analyst Sam Koebrich, lead author of the Data Book.

Chart showing U.S. capacity and generation from 2009 to 2018 for all renewable technologies in the data book
The 2018 Renewable Energy Data Book shows cumulative year-over-year growth in U.S. renewable energy capacity and generation, in addition to detailed technology-specific data.

The 2018 Renewable Energy Data Book compiles the latest available statistics for the 2018 calendar year. Other key findings from the data include:

  • Overall U.S. energy consumption increased 3.5% (from 97.5 to 101.2 quadrillion British thermal units) between 2017 and 2018, the largest increase since 2010.
  • U.S. solar photovoltaic capacity increased by 20.6% (8.9 GW), accounting for more than 52.9% of newly installed U.S. renewable electricity capacity in 2018.
  • Wind capacity increased 8.4% (7.5 GW), representing more than 44.9% of newly installed renewable capacity in 2018.
  • Renewable-paired energy storage capacity in the United States expanded by 5.6% (76 MW) in 2018, up from a 2.4% increase in 2017.
  • U.S. natural gas-fired generation capacity accounted for 56.4% (21.8 GW) of all new U.S. capacity installed in 2018, accounting for a net addition of 15.1 GW after retirements.
  • Renewable energy generation as a percentage of total U.S. electricity generation remained unchanged—17.6% (741 TWh) in 2018.
  • The share of natural gas generation rose to 34.9% (1.468 TWh) from 31.9% in 2017.
  • Nearly 361,000 electric vehicles were sold in the United States in 2018 —an increase of over 84% from 2017—representing over 2% of total light-duty vehicle sales.

This latest edition includes a new section on the voluntary procurement of renewable energy in the United States; in total, some 966,000 customers procured 9.6 million megawatt-hours of renewable electricity through voluntary procurement mechanisms. The Renewable Energy Data Book also includes U.S. state- and region-specific energy data and trends, along with statistics on clean energy investment and renewable energy development worldwide.

Learn more about NREL's energy analysis research.