The past few years have seen major developments in the power distribution sector. Governments around the world have stepped up their climate ambitions. Shares of renewables in electricity generation also continued to rise around the world. In some countries, the share of renewables in heating, cooling, and transport also grew.
The American Clean Power Association (ACP) has recently published its Clean Power Market Quarterly Report. It shows the U.S. surpassed more than 200Gw operating utility-scale clean power capacity in 2021. But has fallen far short of what is needed to reach the climate goals.
The unprecedented time of Covid and significant policy issues were majorly responsible for the shortfall and hold back growth for the industry.
“Surpassing over 200 gigawatts of clean energy is a significant milestone for the United States and shows that we can achieve even more with strong public policy support for the industry,” said Heather Zichal, ACP CEO. “Although the U.S. has reached this incredible achievement, more needs to be done, at a faster pace, to reach the climate goals and targets our country needs to achieve. We urge Congress to take action to create a clean energy future that will help create more good-paying American jobs and combat the climate crisis.”
During 2021 there was a 3% decline for clean energy installations compared to 2020’s record year. Over 11.4Gw of projects, originally expected to come online in 2021, slipped to 2022 or 2023 due to a variety of issues. For the solar sector, this was due to trade policies and lack of regulatory certainty impacting the availability of solar panels coming into the country. They recently even try to impose a solar tax on the owners of rooftop solar owners.
Remember, Last June, the Department of Homeland Security cracked down on goods made with silica tied to human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Border and Customs agents began seizing solar panels and other silica-based products from a Chinese company facing allegations of forced labor. That could continue to “further delay projects or even lead to their cancellation,” ACP says in its report. Not to mention, Xinjiang produces about 45% of the world’s solar-grade polysilicon, and the blacklisted company is the region’s largest producer.
But on a positive note, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the Solar Futures Study detailing the significant role solar will play in decarbonizing the nation’s power grid. The study shows that by 2035, solar energy has the potential to power 40% of the nation’s electricity. Solar will play a key role in driving deep decarbonization of the grid and employ as much as 1.5 million people—without raising electricity prices.
Unfortunately, last year the pace of installations fell significantly short of what is required to achieve a net-zero emissions goal. While 27.7 GW is the second largest year on record for combined wind, solar, and energy storage installations, it is only 45% of what is required to stay on track for an emissions-free power sector.
Also, there was a positive aspect to 2021: batteries had a remarkable year. Utility battery storage installations grew by a whopping 196 percent in the US. Energy storage. Batteries make solar and wind energy available when gusts calm and sunshine fades
To be true, the 27.7 GW of clean energy added across the US in 2021 still amounts to the second-largest annual addition of wind, solar, and energy storage on record after 2020, a testament to the technology’s maturity and the dramatic drop in costs over the last few decades
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