Electricity generation, the process of producing electric power from sources of primary energy, is typically the first stage in the delivery of electricity by utility companies to consumers. In 2020, the U.S.' net electricity generation stood at approximately four petawatt hours, more than double the generation reported half a century earlier. The North American country is the second largest electricity producer worldwide, ranking only behind China. While its annual electricity output has remained fairly stable in the past decade, the sources fueling it have suffered a major transformation in the period.
Out with coal, in with natural gas
In 2020, fossil fuels remained the predominant source of electricity generation in the U.S., accounting for around 60 percent of the national output. Natural gas alone accounted for more than 40 percent, nearly doubling its contribution within a decade. In fact, electricity generation from natural gas increased by more than 63 percent in the period, surpassing 1.6 petawatt hours in 2020. In contrast, that same year, coal-fired electricity in the U.S. dipped below 800 terawatt hours. For years the leading source of electricity in the country, the “dirtiest” of fossil fuels has been overtaken by both natural gas and nuclear power in recent years, as pressures for its phase-out as an important step towards reaching greenhouse gas emission targets increase.
The future is looking green
After pulling out of the Paris Agreement under the Trump era, the U.S. government, under the administration of President Joe Biden, has released a series of ambitious targets in order to cut down on emissions, including having 80 percent of electricity generated by clean sources by 2030. Its achievement relies mostly on the expansion of wind and, particularly, solar power. Following suit, these two sources accounted for the totality of electricity capacity additions in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2021. However, there is still a long road ahead. In 2020, the share of renewables in the country’s electricity mix stood at approximately 20 percent, with wind power generation adding up to some 350 terawatt hours. While the participation of wind and solar power generation have increased exponentially in recent years, the contribution of nuclear power has remained mostly stable in the past decade, at an average of 20 percent.
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In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 26 most important statistics relating to "U.S. electricity generation".