Energy transition

The US Energy Transition Explained in Numbers

Solar and natural gas surged last year in the US, while wind stumbled.

Solar farm in the Appalachian Mountains with a distant view of the small town of Nesquehoning, Poconos region, Pennsylvania.
Source: Alex Potemkin/Getty Images

The power sector is key to US efforts to cut planet-warming pollution this decade.

Technologies for generating wind and solar energy are expected to green the economy faster than electric cars and heat pumps, according to deep decarbonization studies. That was evident in 2023 as large solar projects catapulted toward levels never seen before in the US.

But there were also indications that the transition to clean energy had not gone as smoothly as some analysts predicted. Wind projects stumbled, for instance, and natural gas continued to soar.

E&E News dug into data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration to get a sense of what happened in the US power sector last year. Here are some numbers that tell the story.

148 Terawatt-Hours: The Amount of Electricity Generated by Utility-Scale Solar
It was a boom year for solar. The amount of energy produced in 2023 by large solar projects was 130% more than the US generated 5 years ago, and 16% more than in 2022, according to preliminary data from the US Energy Information Administration. It was enough to power almost 14 million homes and amounted to 4% of total power generation.

20.8 Gigawatts: The Amount of Utility-Scale Solar Installed in 2023
Why is solar generation growing so fast? Because the US is installing a lot more of it.

The country added 10.7 GW of solar in 2020, 13.6 GW in 2021, and 11.1 GW in 2022. Those numbers will likely be blown away when the 2023 figures are finalized.

Through November, power companies had installed almost 12 GW of new solar capacity. They were scheduled to bring another 8.8 GW online in December, though it remains to be seen how much of that power actually came online. Still, if just a fraction of those facilities were turned on last month, solar will outpace natural gas, which ranked second in terms of new capacity additions, with 8.7 GW brought online last year.

Read the full story here.