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April 21, 2020

Wind and natural gas-fired generators led U.S. power sector capacity additions in 2019

U.S. electric generating capacity additions
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest Monthly Electric Generator Inventory Report, the electric power sector installed nearly 23,000 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in 2019. This new capacity was primarily in onshore wind (9,100 MW), natural gas-fired (8,300 MW), and solar photovoltaic (PV) (5,300 MW) technologies. The South region accounted for nearly half of the total capacity additions in the United States last year.

In the Northeast region, access to abundant natural gas supply from the Marcellus and Utica shale plays in Pennsylvania and Ohio has led to increases in natural gas-fired power plant capacity. Similarly, access to high quality wind resources in the Midwest region has led to increases in wind capacity. In both cases, these additions have replaced coal-fired capacity. Nearly 14,000 MW of coal-fired capacity was retired in 2019—the third-most annual coal retirements in EIA’s power plant inventory.

regional electricity generation by fuel type
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly

Although total electricity generation across the United States has remained relatively flat since the mid-2000s, power plant installations have continued to increase in the past decade, partly to replace retiring coal-fired plants. Low natural gas prices, a rapid decline in construction costs for solar and wind systems, and an increase in renewable portfolio standard requirements in many states have led to more generation from natural gas-fired and renewable resources in many regions. In 2010, coal was the predominant source of electricity generation in the United States as a whole and in every region except the Northeast. In 2019, coal was the most-used electricity generation source in only the Midwest.

Principal contributor: Manussawee Sukunta