If natural gas is a bridge fuel to a clean energy future, as politicians from President Barack Obama to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have constantly reminded us, then that bridge has been crossed. According to the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the United States brought more renewables online than natural gas during the first quarter of 2016. In fact, in the first three months of the year, renewable sources set a quarterly record for new electrical generating capacity, beating natural gas by a factor of more than 70:1.
Only two new units of natural gas came online in Q1, providing 18 megawatts of generating capacity. That is compared to 1,291 megawatts of new capacity from renewables — nine new units of wind (707 MW), 44 new units of solar (522 MW), nine new units of biomass (33 MW) and one new unit of hydropower (29 MW). Clean energy accounted for all new electricity generating capacity reported by FERC in January and March. No new capacity came from coal, oil or nuclear.
Renewables now account for 18.11 percent of total installed generating capacity in the U.S. — water (8.58 percent), wind (6.39 percent), biomass (1.43 percent), solar (1.38 percent) and geothermal steam (0.33 percent). For comparison, when FERC’s first report came out in December 2010, renewable sources accounted for just 13.71 percent.
“While often touted as being a ‘bridge fuel,’ natural gas is increasingly becoming an unnecessary bridge to nowhere,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, an organization that promotes sustainable energy technologies. “As renewables continue to rapidly expand their share of the nation’s electrical generation, it’s becoming clear that natural gas will eventually join coal, oil, and nuclear power as fuels of the past.”
Images via Energy.gov