U.S. Electricity Generation by Source in 2023: Natural Gas, Coal, Nuclear, Wind, Hydro, Solar, Geothermal, Biomass, Petroleum

Power generation dips from record: 16 years of stagnation. And the battery arbitrage.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

The quantity of electricity generated in the US declined by 0.9% in 2023 from the record in the prior year, to 4,247,732 gigawatt-hours, according to data from the EIA today.

But compared to 2007, over those 16 years, electricity generation was up only 2.3%. Power generators in aggregate had gotten mired in stagnating demand, despite the growing economy and population. A big factor was that electricity users, to reduce their costs, invested in more efficient equipment – lights, appliances, electronic equipment, industrial equipment, heating and air-conditioning, etc. – and in better building insulation, shading, etc., to reduce their costs. But in 2022, demand jumped to a record amid a big heat wave in a big part of the US, EV charging, crypto mining, etc.

The chart shows the total amount of electricity generated each year by all sources, from natural gas to roof-top solar. The blue line connects 2021 and 2007:

The share of total electricity generated by source:

Natural gas has been hard to beat in the US, in terms of costs and flexibility for power generation. Fracking has turned the US into the biggest natural gas producer in the world, with surging exports. Production has oversupplied the US market and has caused the price of natural gas to collapse since 2009.

In addition, the modern combined-cycle natural gas powerplants have a thermal efficiency of around 65%, nearly double that of older coal powerplants.

The low price of natural gas and the high efficiency of the modern powerplants has caused the share of natural gas as source for power generation to increase from record to record, surpassing nuclear in 2006 and coal in 2016. In 2023, the share of electricity generated by natural gas powerplants surged to another record: 42.7% of total power generated (blue in the chart below).

Coal dropped to another record low of 15.9%, in terms of its share of total power generation, down from 51% in 2001 (black in the chart below).

Fracking (causing the price of natural gas to collapse since 2009), the combined-cycle gas turbine (a technical innovation from the 1990s that vastly increased the efficiency of natural gas plants), and later wind, and more recently solar knocked King Coal of its perch over the past two decades.

It all boils down to costs. Gas is cheap. With renewables, the “fuel” is free; and all methods of power generation require costly plants and equipment.

Coal power plants cannot compete with a combined-cycle natural gas plant and can no longer even compete with wind and solar. Power generators have not built any new coal-fired power plants over the past decade. They’re just too inefficient and expensive to operate.

All renewables combined – in that order: wind, hydro, solar, geothermal, and biomass – increased their share of total power generation by a hair to 22.8% (red).

Nuclear power’s share of total generation inched up to 18.3% (green).

Petroleum liquids and petroleum coke have nearly vanished as source of power generation, down to 0.4% (purple).

The chart below shows the quantity of electricity generated by source since 2001. “Renewables” include wind, hydro, solar including rooftop, geothermal, and biomass. More on them separately in a moment.

Power generation from renewables.

Wind power generation dipped in 2023 from the huge record in 2022 to 425,235 gigawatt-hours, and its share of total power generated dipped to 10.0%. Wind-power generation by state:

  1. Texas
  2. Iowa
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Kansas
  5. Illinois
  6. California

Hydropower dipped to 5.6% of total power generation.

Solar – including rooftop solar – surged to a new record share of 5.6% of the total power generated (up from 4.8% in the prior year), essentially matching hydropower. Solar was the only source that gained share. Solar-power generation by state:

  1. California
  2. Texas
  3. Florida
  4. Arizona
  5. North Carolina
  6. Nevada

Biomass & geothermal combined has a share of 1.5% of total power generated. Biomass includes several small categories such as wood and wood-derived fuels, landfill gas, and other waste biomass.  Most geothermal plants are in California, built in the 1970s.

Small-scale solar, such as rooftop systems, jumped to 73,619 gigawatt-hours, for a share of 1.7% of total power generated in 2023. Generation has multiplied by over 6 times since 2014 (the first year the EIA started tracking it).

Battery storage: booming price arbitrage.

Battery storage isn’t a power generator. But it makes an arbitrage possible: Buying electricity during periods of the day when demand and wholesale prices are low, and selling electricity during the time of the day when demand peaks and prices are high.

Batteries allow the power generated by wind and solar to be sold at the most profitable periods of the day, regardless of when it was generated. And that has turned into a big business opportunity.

In 2023, installed battery capacity jumped to about 16 Gigawatts, up from around 10 GW in 2022 and up from about 5 GW in 2021, according to the EIA. For 2024, the EIA expects another 16 GW in capacity to be added, bringing total capacity by the end of 2024 to about 32 GW. In other words, from 2021 through 2024, battery storage capacity increased six-fold.

California (#1 solar power generation, #6 wind power generation) has the largest installed battery capacity, with 7.3 GW (as of November).

Texas (#1 wind power generation, #2 solar power generation) has the second largest installed battery capacity, with 3.2 GW (as of November).

California and Texas together account for about two-thirds of the total installed capacity.

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  219 comments for “U.S. Electricity Generation by Source in 2023: Natural Gas, Coal, Nuclear, Wind, Hydro, Solar, Geothermal, Biomass, Petroleum

  1. craig says:

    So where/how is all of the power needed for data centers going to be produced?

    • rodolfo says:

      Was reading that bitcoin miners are spending big to put their rigs at oil gas wells and using trapped gas to burn on site to generate power for their mining.
      Wonder how much more of that trapped power is going to go to power houses after seeing how it is feasible with bitcoin.

      And what’s with this bitcoin continuous type rally? Seems unstoppable.

      • medialAxis says:

        Yes, but it will likely crash again, like it’s done so many times before. Will this run see it crash its way beyond its ATH of circa $66k?

      • WB says:

        This is a perfect example of the cognitive dissonance at work in the minds of the crypto kids. These folks talk about free markets and economic freedom etc. if this is what they are really concerned about then they would recognize that there are much more productive things for those consumable do be doing than mining and maintaining some electronic bits on magnetic media.

        • Einhal says:

          Ultimately, crypto would be worth 0 if people trusted the central banks not to debase the currency

        • WB says:

          Should read “consumable calories”.

          There are considerable more productive things for those consumable calories to be doing. In a truly free market those calories would have considerably more productive pursuits.

        • Seba says:

          Yes I believe they’ve been doing these kinds of things in some Scandinavian countries for years where excess heat from these operations would get pumped to some factory nearby or whatever, a factory that makes actual things mind you instead of supporting a “decentralized” accounting system for the purpose of selling crappy pictures of monkeys to Justin Bieber for a premium.

        • Warren G. Harding says:

          Crypto is worth 0 with no electricity.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          WGH – what happens when the tool becomes more important than it’s mission…

          may we all find a better day.

        • NBay says:

          That’s a good one, DO.

          BTW, any idea in hell what “cognitive dissonance” means lately?…..sure is all over hell.

          FN Aristotle.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          NBay – good on ya, mate. I think, as you posit, there’s SO MUCH ‘cognitive dissonance’ around us (this ‘AI’ thing just adding more steroids to its prevalent media mix) that the ‘dissonance’ is approaching, what’s that word? oh, yeah, ‘singularity’…Best!

          may we all find a better day.

        • NBay says:

          Yeah, gotta watch out for those damn “singularitys”……nasty little things they are.
          Take Care.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          NB….cognitive dissonance is anything you believe that someone else disagrees with.

        • NBay says:

          Is that what it says in the DMS-5 (2013, the most current edition)?

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          Naaah. I think of it more as intellectual superimposition;

          and, a charter principle for all political ideologies.

        • NBay says:

          Wanna give “consumable calories” a try? Or “productive pursuits”

          Meat is wasteful and planet destroying.

        • NBay says:

          PJ……And getting richer on nukes is giving everyone else and their kids the finger.
          Getting richer probably is, too, in your case.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          Emotive statement.

          Don’t like meat? Then don’t eat it. Don’t restrict my options.

          Planet destroying. Excuse me for a moment…the tears are welling. Everything in our universe (or universes if you prefer) is eventually going to end – whether it freezes or reduces back to a singleton.

          We can walk different paths. Our values and sense of time differ. Clearly as does our religions.

          You know….I worked acquisition a significant part of my life. Requirements, specification, budgeting, R&D, development, testing, fielding, operations, disposal; the whole gamut. Missiles. data link integration. aircraft avionics. mobile devices. software V&V. Cybersecurity policy. Blah blah. Among the lessons I learned: huge difference between engineering concept and industrialization of concepts/systems integration; operations and life cycle costs are never close to original predictions – usually underestimating by orders of magnitude.

          Keep to your quest. I get that part of it. And I’ll stick to mine.

        • NBay says:

          Eg, not enough real experience to make your own decisions. I kinda figured that. A pure follower. Oh well, just another rut in the road. I’ll lift the front wheel with some throttle and you’ll be in the mirror.
          Hope the kids flip on ya…..soon.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          You’ll have to do better than that!

          I had a great ribeye tonight!

          Watch out for number one. But don’t step in number two! Net CO2 balances are at stake!

      • MustBeADuck says:

        Most likely none of it. That gas was being burned off, or “flared”, because it was not economically feasible to move it somewhere else to be used. What is economically feasible is moving containers full of Bitcoin mining equipment to these individual flare gas sites so that the energy is not wasted anymore.

      • eg says:

        Bitcoin has become a proxy for risk on, rodolfo.

    • ManOverBoard says:

      What did the late great investment guru Charlie Munger call crypto, oh yeah, ‘rat poison’ i think it was. I read 80+% of all crypto is owned by white males of western economies aged between 20-45. A colossal waste of electrical and intellectual energy. And the power needs grow every day in perpetuity because the mine gets deeper and deeper. Take it and Section 230 out behind the shed and be done with both would drive E/E costs down and help everyone, even the little guy.

      • medial axis says:

        Yes, but who are the rats?

        • Flea says:

          1% richest of the rich

        • NBay says:

          “I was not the one to invent lies: they were created in a society divided by class and each of us inherited lies when we were born. It is not by refusing to lie that we will abolish lies: it is by eradicating class by any means necessary.”

          — Jean-Paul Sartre

      • phillip jeffreys says:

        Why was blockchain innovated into crypto in the first place?

        There lies the answer. Satoshi was addressing a set of requirements/perceived needs well beyond medium of exchange.

        Crypto goes – something will have to replace it. The financial system
        is not trustworthy.

    • Citizen X says:

      So now all we need is for the renewables vs. gas chart to look like the coal vs gas chart where renewables just take over the share that gas used to. Sure, we keep a little around just in case for a while but otherwise the future will be all renewables and some nuclear – that’s the future and it’s smart and will be the only thing creating jobs and powering the economies of most of the midwest and south that have been stagnant for so long.

      Any resistance to eliminating fossil fuels is just unintelligent in every way – we even get to bankrupt all our enemies and a lot of the worst political corrupt interests in this country.

      • Rich says:

        Yes we need a hybrid system while we build solar, wind and geothermal, weaning off petroleum. Why can’t electric car makers build in the new 250 watt solar panels into the car bodies. These new e-car built in solar panels could wean us off having to build millions of chargers everywhere. Los Angeles is running power from street light fixtures to chargers but built in solar panels still seems better.
        Another benefit of solarization would be to lower petroleum income to Russian war mongers.

        • Perth says:

          Can you tell us how many square feet of panels and how many hours of time would be needed to charge an EV for it to be able to drive say 10 miles…..

          I think that once somebody actually does the math that the reality of the situation would reveal itself.

          By the way a neighbour had a Tesla that he charges off his solar panels and the time required is quite surprising.

        • Jarod Lessert says:

          I honestly believe they could, but they want to release the technology in stages. They want your car to be obsolete after a few years just like your cellphone. The wealthy will have the best technology while those of us who can only afford a 5 year old vehicle will buy up their leftovers.

        • The Squeezed says:

          If you strapped on a nice 400W panel and live in a sunny place (5 hours peak sunlight). It would take roughly 6 days to recover the energy of a 10-mile round trip commute. 1/4 kWh per mile.

          BTW, I’m notoriously bad with this kind of math. So do your own.

        • Dean says:

          Tesla battery is 75KWH or more. If you had 500W of solar built into car it would take 150 hours of full sun to recharge.

          Unless you are in an open treeless parking lot you would be lucky to get 6 hours of full production a day.

          75KWH/(6hrs*0.5kw) = 25 days to recharge car once.

      • Unamused NBay says:

        WE also need SUPER MASSIVE work on the DEMAND side…..personally I think Carter was our last chance, should have listened to the only scientist (that I know of) we ever had as Prez.
        Sorry to rain on an otherwise good and upbeat article…..honest.

        You called it right DO….weary.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Look at the first chart. That’s work done on the “demand side”: 16 years of essentially no growth in electricity consumption despite economic and population growth — I mentioned some of the reasons behind that.

      • phillip jeffreys says:


        Look at global crude oil demand in 2023. Highest in decades.

        Chinese internal political/economic probs are driving very large oil purchases recently.

        The renewable religion has not produced bonafide gains, is (I have from someone who actually manages a vey large grid in the SE) very volatile in the base system, does not account for all energy/mining, etc. costs, and continues to require subsidies, legislation and regulations to force transition (rather than unfettered price discovery) to sustain its growth.

        Until someone performs a credible end-to-end energy and materials analysis that reflects ground truth (or reasonable, holistic analysis) for net cost on some sort of normalized metric I consider all of this an amusing play on the rest of us by the super wealthy at the top of pyramid.

        • C says:

          It’s a good thing we have the corruption-free, transparent, honest, and unsubsidized free markets of oil and gas. Where do you think renewables learned this game? Catholic school? Subsidies, mandates and regulatory capture in infrastructure and energy are a feature, not a bug. It’s all green ($) energy.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          All true.

          That doesn’t change the core reality…now does it?

          It’s almost instinct now for any of us who have been paying attention for the last 15-20 years to distrust just about anything gov’t favors.

    • Best case is their own roof and parking lot solar+ batteries

    • Their own solar + battery system on roof and parking lot would be a great idea.

    • dang says:

      If I understand, from an engineering point of view, as opposed to the more flatulent opinions, what the data indicates is that battery technology is the current game changer. The storage of electrons in a room temperature super conducting ring would change the human version of the world.

      A successful fusion pilot plant would super cede all of the above.

    • phillip jeffreys says:

      Some of that has already been unfolding over the last decade through data center consolidation.

  2. Jonno says:

    Hey Wolf, you used a red line for renewables and a green line for nuclear. It should have been a green line for renewables and a yellow line for nuclear.

    • Wisdom Seeker 2.0 says:

      I’m going to go out on a limb and say that after everyone appreciates the limitations of renewables, and the perils of poisoning ourselves with higher CO2 levels (irregardless of global warming), nuclear will have a renaissance.

      • George Galamba says:

        Agreed. But until nuclear costs less than solar + storage, it ain’t gonna happen. Also, building a nuclear plant takes about 20 years. We don’t have twenty years.

        • dang says:

          Actually, the calculation of the cost of nuclear plants does not include the incalculable cost of disposal of the toxic waste it produces.

          When the come up with a solution to that simple question then fission is a lethal risk.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          How long do we have?

          Askin for a friend since we, by prognostications made two decades ago, should be living in a raging dystopia now.

        • NBay says:

          Who is we? Or what “we” do you think you are in?

          Sorry…acid flashback.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          No problem. I grew up in the 60s as well.

          I do agree with what I suspect is the underlying idea – there is no “we” any longer. Could be a healthy thing in some respects. Nort so much in a real crisis – but the TPTB should have thought that through a long time ago.

        • NBay says:

          Bad trip….probably mescaline horse caps cut with strychnine.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          We differ in mindset…but glad you survived the experience.

          The risks we took back then. And now!

      • Trucker Guy says:

        So many people are terrified of nuclear it will be an uphill battle. The other major issue with nuclear is modern nuclear reactors are gigantic expenses and take an enormous amount of time to get to producing power.

        It’s a fantastic resource and will likely need to be a stop gap until renewables and green energy can become feasible for modern energy demands. But the court of public opinion and the financial concerns is the biggest issue. You’d need government subsidies to make it feasible. Case in point: Plant Vogtle.

        • Tankster says:

          SMR’s are already approved and will be rolling off the assembly line soon, but not soon enough. NuScale, 40% owned by Fluor, is making pocket nukes happen where all the bogusity of the old Stalninist Command and Control plants are tossed aside.

        • NBay says:

          That mean they will be available at Wal-Mart soon Tankster?

          I think we may be approaching the “cognitive dissonance singularity”…….I’m outta here before it goes off.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          Tankster: shhhhh.

          You are correct. Nice gains on uranium over the last year…eh?

          But the politics of this undoes 70 years of anti-nuke rhetoric.

        • Ccat says:

          Every nuclear power plant is a nearly indefensible target: Terrible for national security!. A few of todays cheap battle drones can take one out and cause a wide spread nuclear disaster.

          Forget about building anymore!

      • NBay says:

        Takes >15% for CO2 to “poison you”……you obviously don’t have much “wisdom” yet…..didn’t you watch Apollo 13?……..that is NOT what climate change is about….and “regardless” will do….even spellcheck is wacko.
        Go to the NOAA website and strain that wisdom seeking brain. ok?

        And I’d stay near the tree trunk for a while if I were you….and away from the nukes.

        • Wisdom Seeker 2.0 says:

          NBay, I love that movie but don’t forget the distinction between acute and chronic exposure. And most humans aren’t as fit as astronauts.

          Chronic exposure to >0.1% is known to have adverse effects (studies on underventilated schools – already a problem there). Current level is 0.4% (400 ppm) and for all of human evolution the level was lower. We’re already running an uncontrolled science experiment in the whole population.

          The higher we go in the atmosphere as a whole, the worse the problem will get in crowded underventilated spaces

        • Wisdom Seeker 2.0 says:

          Typo: current level 0.04% not 0.4%

        • NBay says:


      • C says:

        If you think permitting solar fields in NIMBY areas is hard, you should try doing it with a nuclear reactor.

  3. JW says:

    However wind and solar are unreliable, non dispatchable; batteries are very expensive short term and add to the cost of a problem on the system introduced by the unreliable generation.
    The more unreliable generation on a system , the higher the cost to the customer to provide a reliable supply.
    These graphs showing high entropy energy sources replacing low entropy energy sources are a death knell to a modern growing economy.

    • Herpderp says:

      Not really. Thats factored in to the cost of of all energy sources when their lcoe are calculated. Yes you’ll need an over build of wind and solar to meet the same baseline generating capacity as a natural gas peaker plant but it’s still cheaper to do.
      When renewables and batteries kill off all the most inefficient smaller generators they may have issues being cost effective against the larger baseline natural gas plants but theres still plenty of room before the electrical companies start making those decisions on their bottom lines.

      • Todd Kulp says:

        Can you point me to well researched studies that show total life costs that show solar and wind plus batteries combined are cheaper than natural gas? And, do those costs include or exclude tax credits?

        • Herpderp says:

          LCOE calculations are normally presented with both subsidized and unsubsidized numbers, since both renewables and oil/natural gas have subisidies and both numbers are important.
          Google “LAZARD 2023 Levelized Cost Of Energy+” to find one such study. (You cant post links here). They also include numbers on LCOS (levelized cost of storage). Theres a million other sources that provide similar reports.
          I havent read the storage numbers, and I doubt combining storage for renewables makes them cheaper, but currently renewables dont need storage to reduce costs for suppliers. The renewables are cheaper at generating electricity when they can and reduce need for peaker and baseline generation that is costlier.
          In the future, if the world looks to completely remove the need of these peaker and baseline plants, they will need to solve for the unpredictability of renewables with large gridbase storage, but thats a completely different problem. There are cost benefits to renewables now, and thats why they are being built. Those current cost benefits are calculated accounting for the fact that renewable installations will not operate at 100% nameplate capacity at all times.

        • Herpderp says:

          Sorry. I can see why you asked the combination battery/renewable question based on my original post. When I said “Thats factorted in”, I meant the fact that you need more renewable generating capacity to replace a similar amount of coal/gas due to unpredictability. Hence they “overbuild”.
          Solving for a 100% renewable future where there is no other production and storage is needed is not factored in, but as my more recent comment mentions thats a different problem and one suppliers are not really looking to solve even if activists are looking to solve it.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          Just my opinion…but most of these studies end up being embarrassingly inaccurate – as one moves to longer time frames (i.e., valid/accurate assumptions that underlie whatever model is built are not a long suit; technology change, geopolitics, resource supply, etc). All the worse since many of these models also require assumptions simply to reduce the complexity of the math.

          Here’s what I do know – I can drive on Interstate 10 in the South, Route 17 in coastal regions further North, etc., and view large tracks of forested land ripped apart iso mega-solar farms. Like many things, renewables seems to boil down to whose vision of “the good life” is getting gored. External diseconomies, across the board, rarely factor in. It gets “decided” for us whether oil, nuclear, gas, or photonosexually stimulated PV cells.

        • NBay says:

          Look at them as fire breaks….and fire command posts and equipment storage and firefighter R&R spots…..something we need a lot of lately….and likely will need more. Ever fought a BIG tree forest fire? I have…twice. Ever log BIG trees? I have….set chokes and bucked on landing.
          That stuff logged down there we called “pecker poles”….mills didn’t want em’. What do you get……one 2ft 2×4 per tree or is it chips and peelers? Paper?

          You’d probably prefer prisons there….lotsa jobs….and that area needs ’em BAD. Why not solar jobs.

          Ever seen a chart of how many Americans are locked up since Reagan got in? (you think like him…..I think).

          Hannity’s mom was a prison guard….when I was in the women were the worst…what a way to grow up, eh?

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          NB….I like how you moved from firebreaks to prisons and thence to employment! Creative…I’ll give you that.

          But to assuage your concerns….at my stage of life I really don’t care (euphemism) anymore for anyone’s causes other than my own in the decade or so I have left.

          Enjoy your weekend. I have some Viet Nam era friends. I truly hope you aren’t afflicted with the health issues many of them have faced – what a cornucopia of various cancers that adventure turned out to be.

          Some sharp people on this site (as is the owner). I wouldn’t periodically visit this space if it didn’t have value – regardless of whether or not I agree in each instance with the theme of the day.

      • JW says:

        And when the wind doesn’t blow and/or the sun doesn’t shine you need reliable back-up instantly available. Batteries do not cut it over any reasonable time period.
        Which means you need to install and maintain and fuel when required equal capacity of reliable dispatchable generation to the unreliables. You basically double the cost to the customer. The result is that to overcome this cost utilities look to demand control, which basically means cutting supply.
        Welcome to the medieval ages again.

        • David_Cary says:

          I am pretty sure that medieval ages didn’t have any electricity…

          I am also pretty sure that weather forecasters know when the sun will shine and the wind will blow with reasonable consistency.

          Cutting supply at different times is not the horrific thing you imagine. Asking people to not charge cars when it is particularly hot is not a big deal.

          This is not insurmountable at all. Yes – you will need some NG for awhile or a lot of batteries. But long interconnects, nuclear, hydro, some batteries – it will work. The alternative is pretty dismal.

          As far as demand, we are flat for 16 years. But we could be down. Most demand reduction is money saving pretty quickly but sometimes the incentives aren’t well placed. Look at an average CA electricity use vs someone in TN. Cost matters.

    • max says:


      The quantity of electricity generated in the US declined by 0.9% in 2023 from the record in the prior year, to 4,247,732 gigawatt-hours, according to data from the EIA today.

      In 2023, installed battery capacity jumped to about 16 Gigawatts,

      go battery go, and electricity price will go up as well — let poor eat their cake

  4. Micheal Engel says:

    [1W] NatGas : SPX flipped to nadir.

  5. ScrappyDoo says:

    In the not so distant past, I remember many solar and wind supporters extolling the benefits of battery storage as a way to reduce peak generation and dependency of fossil fuel generated sources. According to Wolf’s findings, battery storage is also utilized to allow renewable sources to be more profitable- not surprising I guess.

    I believe the province of Ontario is a good example of what not to do (locked in 20 year FIT and microFIT contracts at high rates, the ridiculous Samsung contract, etc.) And how not to do it (a moratorium against offshore IWTs – great lakes, not pursuing net metering, not initially engineering and constructing the grid to allow distribution from enough generation sources, locking in contracts with “intermittent” power producers that essentially has them being paid to not produce any power, continually exporting power at a loss, etc.)

  6. Kent says:

    It is remarkable how much energy is wasted. I signed onto an experiment performed by a university here in Florida where they wired up my house to see how much energy I was using. They came in and insulated the house, and with my financial contribution, replaced some appliances. My energy usage fell by over half in the hotter months when it can easily triple from cooler winter months.

    I’d consider solar, but with my usage, it really doesn’t come close to penciling out. The majority of the costs are in installation, and the installation costs don’t drop proportionate to panels used. I’d prefer to see FP&L cover our towns gigantic 90’s era parking lots with solar and use that to supplement the nat gas plant that feeds the area.

    • Warren G. Harding says:

      People love old period houses, but is wasn’t until the 1970’s that insulation became a thing.

      • Greg Nikolic says:

        Insulated homes are a good investment, particularly when they’re mass-built by home builders as they go about constructing new subdivisions on the fringes of the cities.

  7. John H. says:


    “It all boils down to costs. Gas is cheap. With renewables, the “fuel” is free.”

    Would appreciate thoughts from you or commenters on the economics of renewable energy, especially consideration of the costs of:
    – manufacturing
    – installation
    – decommissioning
    -government subsidization

    when compared to the other alternatives.

    The concept that “the fuel is free” muddies the water….

    Thanks for this excellent overview of electricity generation.

    (Separately, second paragraph under “Coal Dropped…” has typo: “off” instead of “of”)


    • Cervantes says:

      Renewables are capital-intensive investments where the upfront cost is much larger than a fossil fuel plant (MWh vs. MWh) but there is very limited ongoing maintenance and no fuel to generate electricity well into the future. Utilities typically model them in the context of a larger portfolio where they assume as an alternative to the renewable, they will buy more electricity from a market that may require additional natural gas plants to be built to accommodate usage. The cost of that natural gas alternative is going to be driven in overwhelming measure by a natural gas price forecast. So the “economics” of the renewable plant are basically, spend more upfront on the plant and save on ongoing fuel costs driven by natural gas prices, which are set by your chosen long-term forecast; then, once you have these numbers, you can add any tax credits. The PTCs from wind, which are tied to generation, make wind electricity not only “free” from fuel costs but even profitable at a negative price; the ITC for solar would be more of a capital offset.

    • Steve Letro says:

      Listen to Kathy Mattea’s coal album. What is the real cost of blowing the top off mountains? The purchase of coal is 95% of the power plant budget.
      I worked 35 years for Potomac Electric Power and retired in 2015. Pepco sold all coal power plants in 2000 for 2.65 billion and bought Atlantic city electric and Delmarva power in 2002. In the late 1970’s the new president Mr. Thompson decided not to build a nuclear power plant. Mr. Thompson sold the uranium futures for large profit. Our executive team was always forward thinking.
      Enjoy the day !

      • NBay says:

        She can hit notes (or whatever, I’m musically ignorant) that send chills through ya.

    • The Squeezed says:

      Its an opportunity of sorts. The US has the capital to invest in these systems and capture the return of “free energy”. Not only free production, but isolation of pollution sources.
      Where I get frustrated is the large capital expense taken on by our government that nets no return for tax payers. Government subsidization should be a partnership or loan, that nets the government an equal return over a reasonable period as the subsidized entity.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        TS – well said. The selloff of taxpayer-owned airwave rights by the Reagan administration to private entities who knew what was coming post-’80’s is a good example of a firesale divestiture of a public property with potential lease-charges that could have been returned to the treasury…

        may we all find a better day.

        • NBay says:

          “The Half-Dome Hilton”….has a nice ring to it, yes?….sounds better than Trump, but he can have a golf course between it and Nevada falls on the backside….once they get the trams in to the Hotel.

      • Glen says:

        There are economic systems that create for the public good. Most of what is in your iPhone was initially public sector for example but as you said, we pay as tax payers and then pay a premium as consumers.

  8. Brant Lee says:

    Wolf mentioned ‘Shading’. In warmer areas, a simple tarp or shade cloth stretched a few feet above a home would cut A/C costs in half. But who wants that look, right? But it shows there are still ways to be a lot more energy efficient.

    • roddy6667 says:

      How many central A/C compressors are in the direct sunlight all day on the wrong side of the house? Things like this should be fined. It’s retarded.

      • Steve Letro says:

        During the cold months the heat pump on sunny side of house is efficient.

      • WB says:

        What? Really, what about during the winter? That radiative heat actually HELPS the heat pump.

        Two things government/laws should NEVER try to do;

        1) fix stupid (let stupid and bad management FAIL)
        2) legislate morality.

        Another sucker that thinks more laws will fix things.

    • Reply says:

      House exhaust fans through the attic can help on the margin, too.

      • David_Cary says:

        It can also hurt by depressurizing the attic and drawing conditioned air from the main house. It is not a panacea.

    • Kevin Bond says:

      Our noisy attic fan turned on every day during the summer months for approx 6 hours. After we installed a smallish 6Kwh solar system it has never turned on since

    • Warren G. Harding says:

      Painting roofs white would also have a large effect on energy usage, but HOA’s.

      • Publius says:

        Less in colder climates, but I guess everyone is moving South despite warming trends.

    • MM says:

      This is the double benefit of rooftop solar in hot climates.

      Not only are you generating electricity, but you’re removing sun radiation that would have added heat to your home, making your AC work harder.

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        MM – a clarifying comment, here (have been off-grid solar since 1990). Your panels don’t t run on wavelength heat, though they can provide some rooftop shading if mounted there. Hot days actually reduce panel efficiency, low-ambient temps one of the reasons they are good power generators for spacecraft and perform with better efficiency on cold, clear winter days (length of day and panel exposure limiting gross output, of course). Best-

        may we all find a better day.

        • MM says:

          Interesting, I wasn’t aware of that.

          That would explain why my peak generation is in April & May (cooler months) despite the fact that the solstice is in June.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          MM – am guessing you have a fixed rooftop array with angle approximating your latitude (equinox) and no automatic or manual daily/weekly/monthly azimuth tracking. If one has the room for an adjustable angle and tracking install, summertime/wintertime boosts can be achieved, but lacking that, with a fixed latitude angle, you’ll usually find better gross results on the year (the relatively new development of MPPT for panels has been a big improvement for fixed arrays). Best.

          may we all find a better day.

    • Buckycat says:

      Maybe trees?

  9. Max Power says:

    The problem with grid energy battery storage besides being very costly) is that it competes with resources for the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles, thus making EVs more expensive.

    BTW, batteries make up only a tiny portion of overall grid level energy storage. The vast, vast majority of grid energy storage is in the form of pumped-hydro electricity.

  10. JimK says:

    I read an article recently about how Great Britain (maybe just Scotland, I forget exactly) is paying wind turbine companies not to provide electricity, because their electrical delivery infrastructure cannot handle the loads. The government signed contracts with the electrical providers for a certain amount of production before they would build the turbines, and now have to honor the contracts, even with the turbines turned off.

    • Max Power says:

      That’s the problem with renewable power – intermittent and un-dispatchable.

      Having still no cost-effective technological long-term energy storage options at the scale required, really the only carbon-free energy solution we have (at least as far as base load electricity is concerned) is nuclear.

      • Scrappy Doo says:

        Nuclear is effective at supplying base load power – not so effective at modulating generating output in a timely manner in order to minimize and prevent exporting at a loss. Battery storage can assist, but presently it seems that a supplemental generating source is still needed to match load with consumption.

        • Ryan Merritt says:

          This is another way that bitcoin mining, switched on and off in an instant as load needs require, fits in with renewables.

          And you don’t pay them, they pay you.

          And to the casual reader, scrolling by, dismissive of bitcoin & renewables – don’t say we didn’t tell you about it, because you’re reading about it right now.

      • Dan says:


      • Steve says:

        Nuclear and to a certain extent coal, aren’t dispatchable. They pretty much have to run all out, so can’t follow load. So the grid has to accommodate that with very expensive peaker plants. So they have really the same problem as renewables. Your idea that only renewables have a dispatchability problem shows your ignorance of how the grid works. Why not do a little thinking instead of spewing fossil fuel companies’ lies?

        • phillip jeffreys says:


          I don’t have to. I know someone who manages a large, regional power grid. By far the most volatility per this engineer derives from renewables.

        • phillip jeffreys says:

          Wake up Steve. Who isn’t lying?

      • MM says:

        Its only a problem if you have unreasonable expectations.

        Renewables are great for augmenting gas-fired generation. Terrible idea to try and replace the latter with the former, however.

    • Scrappy Doo says:

      Norway had to add and replace alot of transmission lines in order to be able handle and distribute load from additional generation (hydro and IWTs). I believe Norway increased generation capacity roughly 400% in the pursuit of the majority of the public utilizing EVs.

    • Tankster says:

      That’s where the “Green Hydrogen” BS is coming from. Let them spin and use the power to create hydrogen, which can then be burned as a fuel.

      • NBay says:

        Ever breathe pure (or high %) hydrogen? You CAN’T….try it!…..worked in anodizing for over a year….c’82? Interesting tech. Fired for burning down the prototype machine and putting hole in metal roof. Alum burns HOT.
        Looked VERY suspicious….1/2-3/4 finished next gen machine was untouched……should have seen the sequence of insurance guys that came in after getting the response to the question, “where can we buy another one?”. Funny. Right up their mgmnt ladder with appropriate wheels, of course.

        Continuous coil anodizing, but we did have a batch plant.

  11. SpencerG says:

    I doubt that the batteries are to provide an arbitrage opportunity since peak electrical use is in the 11am-3pm time when solar and wind power production are already at their own peak. More likely they are requirements imposed by state regulatory agencies to placate critics of renewable energy.

    Not that it really matters, at just 32GW by the end of 2024… battery power is little more than a demonstration project at this point. By way of comparison, JUST rooftop solar (that those batteries might marry up to) is 73,619 gigawatt-hours according to the EIA.

    • Warren G. Harding says:

      Depends on elevation. Wind speeds at 30 feet are most likely in the early afternoon, whereas those at 400 feet are most likely in between midnight and sunrise.

    • Martin says:

      Peak is actually in the evening. If you look at time of day electric plans, they charge most between 4pm and 8pm when solar production is falling while AC usage picks up from people getting home, but continues at businesses until later.

      Battery only needs to provide power for 3-4 hours during this time,

      • SpencerG says:

        Depends on where you are at and what season it is… I live on the Gulf Coast and in the summer (April-October… LONG summers for us) the peak hours are noon to 8pm… but in the winter the peak hours are 6:00 and 10:00 am … and then AGAIN between 6:00 and 10:00 pm.

        But for arbitrage to work the power companies must NEED your stored power. It does them no good to use YOUR stored power if the consumption is below THEIR generation baseload anyway. In that case the batteries only make sense at the grid level… with the power companies deciding WHICH source of power is the cheapest to use… which is more of a corporate cost-cutting efficiency move than an arbitrage opportunity for investors.

        Again, like I said… this is all early days. I can easily envision MOBILE battery storage moving from location to location to take advantage of localized price disparities. All told, it seems like a hard way to make a buck… battery investors have to find locales that have excess generation needs for certain hours of the day that they cannot easily cover… AND those locales have to have regulatory agencies that restrict the creation of new power generation. But how likely is THAT? Electricity is probably the most heavily regulated industry in America… and brownouts/blackouts have led to more than one politician to lose his position in the past. ALL politicians want to avoid being the next Gray Davis facing a recall election.

    • Hubberts Curve says:

      I consult for one of the battery storage companies based here in Oregon. Most of their grid scale battery systems are installed in Arizona and Texas. And almost all of them are paid for by investors doing power arbitrage. The power arbitrage game is not reliant on when renewables are producing ( though that is most useful in the long run). They rely on the difference between high demand ( peak daytime) and low demand ( nighttime) electricity rates in certain states and utility areas. Some of their most lucrative grid scale battery set-ups are in utility areas with little or no renewables.

      • SpencerG says:

        Yeah, I probably should have been more precise in my statement. Instead of saying that there was no arbitrage opportunity I should have said that the peak-energy arbitrage opportunity works as much for fossil fuel plants as renewable plants.

        But renewable power plants either have to build a natural gas turbine plant to make up for nighttime/no wind conditions (which defeats most of the purpose of having them… why not build a gas turbine or nuclear plant instead and have constant power generation)… or they can build battery storage. Obviously for political authorities wedded to renewables the battery storage is preferable.

        That said, this is all early days. Maybe battery storage will make MORE sense in the long run than even electric cars do. A lot of tinkering is about to happen in that market.

  12. Wolf Richter says:

    “Real economic activity requires real inputs, with energy being…”

    The relationship is not that simple.

    From paragraph 2:

    “A big factor was that electricity users, to reduce their costs, invested in more efficient equipment – lights, appliances, electronic equipment, industrial equipment, heating and air-conditioning, etc. – and in better building insulation, shading, etc., to reduce their costs.”

    • WB says:

      Yes, yes… but it still takes energy to make, deliver and install all those more efficient machines…

      The laws of physics are non-negotiable, and there are still 8+ billion people that need real things just to survive, nevermind have a decent standard of living.

      Same as it ever was.

    • nick kelly says:

      A few months ago I wanted a desk top lite. As with most stuff, went to a thrift store and got one. Very bright but VERY hot. The cover got too hot to touch for more than a few seconds and I quickly stopped leaving cell phone in its glare. Forget brand but a well- known quality name.
      After a few weeks decided lite was too much and went thrifting again. New (old) lite has Chinese name, good brightness. Lack of heat is for a boomer, almost a miracle. Just vaguely warm, not much more than body temp.

      Power consumption? Just 3, three, watts. No power wasted making heat, which is the most greedy user of electricity. The old one was no doubt more expensive new and was quality for its time, but for lite production, obsolete.

      The Japanese guy who developed LED for lighting ( it began as red lite numbers on digital clocks) got the Nobel prize. This is good for us but huge for Third World. There, lighting after dark meant kerosene lantern.

      • Wolf Richter says:

        Every single bulb in our place is an LED with minimal power consumption. In the US, incandescent energy-hog (hot) bulbs stopped being sold 15 or so years ago. That’s one of the big reasons why electricity consumption in the US hasn’t gone up over that period.

  13. DDG says:

    Looking at the big picture, generally, a society’s standard of living and technological level is a function of its energy consumption. From that perspective, a 16 year stagnation is alarming. If this pause is the result of a simple rearrangement and refurbishing of the deck chairs, that is less concerning, but if it presages a downturn, that’s a big problem.

    • Max Power says:

      Nothing to be alarmed about given that much of this effect is due to increased energy efficiency and things like better insulation. A typical LED lightbulb for example consumes about a tenth of the energy consumed by an equivalent incandescent bulb. So more work for the same unit of energy.

    • Tom S. says:

      Ironically, you could have armies of robots rearranging deck chairs, consuming massive amounts of energy, and yet it would have no impact on standard of living.

    • The Squeezed says:

      The stagnation of production does not indicate a stagnation of consumption. There was a considerable increase in use, but by more efficient systems. The scale of that efficiency is hard to see as it is pervasive.
      One example I can provide from IT. Server systems became roughly 20% more efficient over that time. We consolidated 260 physical servers from around the country into a single data center with only 13 servers hosting those 260 virtual servers. That data center grew to 520 virtual servers on 18 physical servers. That data center is now moving to the cloud where physical consumption will be even more efficient from a energy perspective, but more costly to the business over time.

  14. meadows says:

    Thanks for this information. Our old house, built in 1910, has lived through the history of fuels, indicative of electricity generation generally. We’ve been here over 30 years. With a hot water radiator system still in use, the radiators have used in this order: wood, coal, oil, and nat gas. Now we have grid-tied solar. We also have off-grid solar at our cabin and I can tell you batteries get better and better as well as solar panels more efficient and cheaper. Near zero maintenance. Batteries IMHO are the future.

  15. Gabriel says:

    Natural Gas is equal to renewables and nuclear combined in generation of electricity going by the graph.

    I know renewables are subsidized quite a bit. But how much are natural gas and nuclear?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Nuclear is THE most expensive and the most subsidized power generation in the US ever by far. You cannot even build a nuclear power plant without government grants, loans, loan guarantees, and a gazillion other subsidies. And when there is a reactor meltdown, of which there have been way too many of the few hundred reactors in operation in the world, the environmental consequences and the costs are long-term catastrophic, as we have seen. And then decommissioning nuclear power plants — the costs we’re now facing as the plants are 50+ years old — are HUGE as well, to be born for decades by rate payers and taxpayers that didn’t even benefit from the nuclear power. The nuclear industry has lied to me every day of my life about nuclear being low-cost and safe power. It’s THE highest cost power, with catastrophic consequences and costs when something goes wrong, and something has gone wrong way too many times.

      • DoubleD says:

        Yep, $835M to decommission a nuke plant. Ask me how I know…..

        I could build you one hell of an efficient combined cycle nat gas plant for that and throw in some solar, to boot. I’ve not researched the small-scale reactor idea, but conventional nuclear is a shit show of risk. The spent fuel is stored in an f-ing machine shed covered swimming pool, just waiting for a catastrophic disruption of cooling water flow.

        • Warren G. Harding says:

          How do you decommission? Where do you store all of the radioactive materials?

        • Harvey Mushman says:

          @Warren G. Harding,

          yucca mountain nuclear waste repository

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          WGH – …and, depending where you live, maybe passing close enough to your neighborhood via rail or truck…

          may we all find a better day.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          WGH – or near an area subject to transoceanic or upper atmosphere wind currents, when a Fukushima or Chernobyl self-decommisions…

          again, a better day to us all.

      • WIZ says:

        While there are too many nuclear accidents on land, it seems the number of accidents on carriers and/or submarines is few – what would you say is the reason? design? size?

        can we learn from the history of seagoing nuclear power plants and make smaller ones on land?

        • Units Matter says:

          For you battery capacity section, the amount of GW doesn’t tell us how much storage there is, it only tells us how much power they can instantaneously provide. You’d need figures in GWh (gigawatt hours) to understand actual energy storage capacity. It’s the difference between the flow rate of a water pipe compared to the capacity of a reservoir, you could have the best pipes in the world but if the reservoir is tiny than it hardly matters. We need capacity to make sense of the actual scale of battery installations.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          You need GW to understand how much power batteries can add to the grid at the moment during peak loads of the day, for a few minutes to a couple of hours. Same as with power plants; their capacity is measured in GW too. You’re not trying to provide emergency power for a month in case the grid goes down; that’s just nonsense.

        • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

          WIZ – perhaps being military, they are not primarily being operated for profit (MIC/US foreign policy sidebars are different discussions) and better conducted in the quest for Fail-Safe operation. That said, we’ve certainly had our share of military accidents involving nukes like the Thresher, and multiples in the Soviet/Russian navy, as well. Half-lives are not half-lived…

          may we all find a better day.

        • NBay says:

          The ONLY thing that can even approach instant discharge is a capacitor.
          Like what powers the lasers at the National Ignition Laboratory (ex Lawerence Livermore)
          They say they are working on fusion “forever cheap” power, but I think they are after a more PURE fusion bomb, which has lots of advantages….$$$s, and POWER DENSITY…how many didn’t know the “hydrogen bomb” is pretty far from pure fusion? Raise your hands if you buy into that “little suns on Earth” BS?

          Time for me to shut up……sorry to all, but not for the reason you think……not really sure myself, but still trying to learn stuff to expand info/experience base….except office shit.

        • NBay says:

          To add to Dustoff,

          Any idea in hell how much military shit goes UNREPORTED under penalty of DISCIPLINE? Even as SEVERE as you can get….and summary!!!!!!!

      • Options Prophet says:

        What are your thoughts on some of the recent advancements in nuclear power, such as small reactor cores?

        • Wolf Richter says:

          1. Given that I’ve been lied to by the nuclear industry my entire life, I no longer believe anything they say. I was a big fan of nuclear in my younger years, but they have beaten it out of me.

          2. In terms of the small-scale nuclear facilities that they’re trying to push through, there have already been huge cost overruns. Same-old same-old. Now there are younger people getting excited about it because they weren’t around when the same promises were made broken decades ago.

      • Steve says:

        Plus, they really aren’t that great for reducing CO2. The plants require huge investments in CO2 emissions from the concrete and steel used to build them. I read one study that showed they don’t break even on emissions until at least a decade of operations. Plus they must go down for maintenance for (or various emergencies), so you need to have a lot of back-up natural gas peakers to provide reliability. And then, of course, there’s the waste and decommissioning costs and centuries of storage. Altogether that’s why no one is building new ones without huge subsidies. Solar eats their lunch.

      • Steve says:

        Plus, they really aren’t that great for reducing CO2. The plants require huge investments in CO2 emissions from the concrete and steel used to build them. I read one study that showed they don’t break even on emissions until at least a decade of operations. Plus they must go down for maintenance for (or various emergencies), so you need to have a lot of back-up to provide reliability. And then, of course, there’s the waste and decommissioning costs and centuries of storage. Altogether that’s why no one is building new ones without huge subsidies. Solar eats their lunch.

      • Tankster says:

        But SMR’s?

        • NBay says:

          I hear Generac is making them for use as UPS’s in the Hamptons.
          Pretty expensive, but if you live there…….

      • Moosy says:

        Add to your comment nuke power plants are a boondoggle, why even build here on earth?

        Why not build it in space on a safe distance and have it transmit the energy to earth where we capture it and use for electricity generation?

        Imagine , at a safe distance, say 8 light minutes . And not just nuke energy but even better, the holy grail fusion energy.

        Would that not be much better?

        It would probably cost a qualizionquaziliom but let’s just indulge.

        And let’s call our BMF fusion reactor ‘The Sun’

        And have some solar panels to capture that energy.

        Or even better, natural plantlife, that with the aid of co2 stores the energy in coal that we then later can burn to produce co2 that then can be reused to capture more energy.

        OK. May be you prefer the solar panels. Fine.

        But we have a common ground here on why build a nuke plant on Earth if we have already a very wonderful big one at a very very very safe distance and with no build cost, no operational cost and no decommision cost.

  16. vvp says:

    It’s amazing how many people don’t know anything about power or the grid but half ass some statements they heard to try and make whatever point.

    The utilities are well aware of how their product works. Online commentators have nothing to add.

    • Steve Letro says:

      vvp I agree. The customer’s tree or car destroys line, pole or transformer. The lineman can never say “Well Ma’am that is not our tree or car and here is your bill for damages”. I retired in 2015 after 35 years chief electric system chemist. After the first 6 months at Pepco I attended 2 weeks of lectures by leadership team subject how we make money and the 4o year plan for the electric system.

      • vvp says:

        I have two reliability friends over at Xcel. The pure effort required to get everything going and working is a monument. Thanks for your career.

        • Steve Letro says:

          Hi Wp, Yes I used chemical data and high voltage data to design new algorithms to determine repair and replace decisions. I started and lead the reliability team. We basically updated the electric system from 2000 to 2015. The feds gave us zero depreciation deal for all assets. So our company paid the lowest taxes of any corporation in USA and received 15% tax refunds. I had a fascinating career as chemist solving problems.

    • Louie says:



  17. Tom says:

    Maybe also:

    There would be less usa local energy consumption from globalization, from the shifting of production to other countries.

    Demographics: Boomers already have stuff, (acquired before the data start of 2001), so they spent on services. Millennial are not so quick to buy stuff; their focus is on experiences. Both are an anecdotal inference on my part.

  18. REriksen says:

    Wolf, do you know the name of some of the companies doing Battery Storage in US? I want to check the business case for Europe.

    • DoubleD says:

      Schneider Electric (Square D), MTU (Rolls Royce), and S&C Electric. The first two are heavily into Europe, S&C is a US company but has installations in the UK. I’ve heard Nokia has some pretty solid solutions, but haven’t researched them. All of my work is utility-scale or large commercial. It’s proven itself for small midwest towns at the end of the line with frequent outages.

    • Prof. Emeritus says:

      EnerVenue and Enerpoly are possibly the biggest startups engaging in the deployment of these battery storage units. Famously Tesla is also in the business, but their services are not too attractive.
      That said, the business case for Europe is going to look much different because of the numerous pumped hydro sites in the Alps and Nordics which is still an order of magnitude more profitable. They are planning to build even more in the Balkans and the Germans are considering the conversion of end-of-life open pits into pumped hydro sites as it’s easy to achieve a 200-300 meter drop in their old coal mines. Heck, even the micro-state of Lumxebourg has a pumped hydro unit.
      Still, European power markets saw a lot of negative price events since the start of the energy crisis, but regulatory changes can ruin a good business case any time, so that’s a risk to look out for.

  19. Herpderp says:

    Great article.
    Ars Technica used to post similar articles before covid when renewables were seeing explosive growth in price competitiveness, but they stopped during Covid when shortages didnt make the numbers look so happy (they have a narrative). Glad to see someone else post the data regardless of what narrative it has, and explain arbitrage nature of grid level storage.

  20. Debt-Free-Bubba says:

    Howdy Folks. So is fracking good or bad? Asking for myself.

    • MOFO says:

      Fracking is bad…

      It pollutes the water table and causes subsidence (see Oklahoma).

      Lots of “experts” might disagree but guess what – they don’t live next to drilling rigs engaged in fracking and sure as hell don’t drink well-water from the area.

      • ApartmentInvestor says:

        @MOFO just like Wolf pointed out that nuclear experts have been lying to us for the past 50 years pretty much every “expert” (with few exceptions) will tell you what he (or she) is paid to say.

  21. Jeff A says:

    Your article refers to battery capacity in GW. There is a maximum discharge rate for batteries in GW, a measure of power, but capacity would be measured in GWHR, energy. Put out power at 1 GW for one hour, you made 1 GWHR. Please be specific if you are referring to energy or power. They are related but different.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      You need GW to understand how much power batteries can add to the grid at the moment during peak loads of the day, for a few minutes to a couple of hours. Same as with power plants; their capacity is measured in GW too. You’re not trying to provide emergency power for a month in case the grid goes down; that’s just nonsense.

  22. Some Guy says:

    Appreciate the nice graphical summary of the data Wolf. The overall renewable share has been growing at a remarkably steady near 1% per year for a long time. Sadly, that isn’t nearly good enough to mitigate climate change.

    I do have some optimism that solar can be the game-changer that starts to ramp things up faster, especially given falling prices for panels and batteries in the past year.

    South Australia has some of the highest electricity prices in the world, but by the same token shows what the future of electricity might look like.

  23. Tim Gardner says:

    I am unsure of a couple of statistics here. Is the “Electricity Generated by Rooftop Solar: % share of total” The excess electricity generated by homes and sold back to the grid, or the total generated by the residence? If sold back only, as I would suspect, wouldn’t the lower demand for electricity 2007 – 2023 also be substantially mitigated by home owners using there own generated electricity in addition to cost cutting reductions. And if so, wouldn’t a substantial increase in rooftop solar significantly reduce grid requirement which seems to be such a concern today.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Small-scale/rooftop solar here is the power generated by it in total, including the power consumed locally by the building and the power sold back to the grid (where possible).

    • MM says:

      Yes and no.

      Even with BTM solar systems setup for net metering, the total generation & total consumption (PV + grid) are tracked separately. The net metering is just how you’re billed (total generated – total consumed).

      However, BTM systems do reduce demand from the grid overall. If you look at the demand graphs for my area (ISO NE), sunny days have a noticeable sag in the curve in the middle of the day, corresponding with peak solar generation. Cloudy days have no such sag in the demand curve.

  24. Ervin says:

    I’d like to describe a real world example and end with a question. Before I retired I was the Utility Superintendent at a bottling facility in the northeast US. I can remember many Dec and January mornings getting to work in the dark with temps in the teens and snow on the ground and dead calm. By 6:30 2+ megawatts of electric load was added to the PJM system.
    Since it was before sunrise and having little or no wind, what real value was all of that free electricity from solar and wind?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      What real value had all the other power plants that weren’t producing power because demand was low that time of the morning??? Duh!!!

      You run renewables when you can to profit from the free fuel and low operating costs; and as needed, you use some of your other power plants. The grid is almost never at 100% capacity. If it were, it would collapse. Most of the time, there is lots of idle capacity just sitting there costing money. Capacity factors are low for fossil fuel plants. Duh.

  25. Imposter says:

    Wind farms are “sold” to the public and environmentalists on the concept of “Capacity”. Those data are always cited, “the capacity of this wind farm can power 1,500 homes or six villages” etc.

    Looking at Wind Europe’s daily actual production data for the past 484 consecutive days shows this actual production as it relates to that “capacity” sold to the public. It is a wind power promoting organization. (Publicly available for free every day)

    On shore farms ran at a 484 day average of 25.4% of capacity.
    Offshore farms ran at a 484 day average of 33.9% of capacity.

    Akin to buying a Honda Civic with an overall 35 MPG rating, we’ll call that it’s “capacity”.

    You buy it and drive it but get these numbers:
    City 8.9 MPG (25.4% of “capacity”)
    Highway 11.9 MPG (33.9% of “capacity”)

    How much value does your Honda now bring?

    Wind may have an overall contributing role but forcing it to assume a large or predominant portion of generation is like driving at high speed at night without headlights. Exhilarating at first…

    • OutsideTheBox says:


      Aha! I see you are long fossil fuel investments !

      • MM says:

        Its not always this black & white.

        I am long fossil fuels AND own a rooftop solar system.

        • OutsideTheBox says:


          Not always…. but it is overwhelmingly often just that black and white.

    • FlyReplyGuy says:

      Weird analogy mate. Maybe more like your civic seats five but since its mostly just you tootling about it has a capacity factor of 20%.

      No power source has a 100% capacity factor. US 2022:
      Nuclear – 92.7%
      Geothermal – 69% (nice)
      Combined Cycle Nat. Gas – 65.6%
      Coal – 48.4%
      Hydro – 36.3%
      Wind – 35.9%
      Solar (photovoltaic) – 24.4%
      Solar (thermal) – 23.1%

      • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

        FRG – an eternal question: ‘…what is the baby-to-bathwater ratio?…’.

        may we all find a better day.

    • Louie says:

      SOME serious failed logic here..

    • Wolf Richter says:


      1. The wind power generation here is IS ACTUAL POWER GENERATED AND CONSUMED, not capacity. RTGDFA.

      2. The capacity factor of a natural gas plant from the 1980s is somewhere in the 15-20% range, and sometimes close to 0% and old coal plants have similar capacity factors because they’re too expensive to operate, and power generators only run them when absolutely needed during peak demand.

      The whole thing about renewables and capacity factors is idiocy spread by people who don’t know better, and who follow some BS narrative.

      At night, when there is relatively little demand, the entire grid may only operate at a 20% capacity factor.

      Let the people at the utilities who know this stuff inside-out make these decisions, you stay out of it.

      • Ervin says:

        When discussing capacity factors you can only give the full and true picture by explaining that wind and solar have “First in line privileges”. If a coal or gas plant is supplying electricity and the sun comes up or the wind starts blowing those fossil fuel plants HAVE to shut down thus reducing their capacity factor and increasing power cost to the consumer. Those plants have to be maintained and staffed regardless. $$$$$$

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Jeeesus, the plants don’t “have to” shut down. That’s pure bullshit. Power generators always dispatch generation to their plants that have the lowest operating costs – that’s how they maximize their profits. That’s how coal is getting killed because coal plants were a lot more expensive to operate than gas plants after the price of NG plunged, and so coal plants started sitting around idle. So the power generators retired their oldest coal plants, and they’re now gone, and they haven’t built any new coal plants because they’re too expensive to operate because coal is expensive and inefficient compared to NG in a combined-cycle plant. Dispatching generation to the lowest-cost generator has been around forever.

          When the fuel is free (renewables), the power generator will always dispatch generation to the plant with the free fuel for as long as there is this free fuel and fill in the rest with generation at other plants. That is just the principle of maximization of profits. That’s why older coal power plants and older NG plants have low capacity factors, because they’re expensive to operate and are used only when no cheaper generators are available.

  26. Stephen Waters says:

    Wolf – This is another really well done report! I had not realized that the thermal efficiency of combined-cycle natural gas powerplants had risen so high. The are a number of problems with battery storage. Per your report, the 2023 GW of storage totals about 16 GW. The batteries are normally 4 hour. In a year they can potentially only store 16 GW x 4 hr x 365 days or 23,360 GWh – a drop in the bucket for what’s required. Batteries have short lives (~15 years), degrade overtime, have about 80% efficiency and can catch fire. Pumped storage is a much better method of energy storage. I will send you some more money today – please keep up the good work!@

    • Cervantes says:

      Note, many natural gas plants being built are combustion turbines or other non-combined-cycle plants. The turbine plants have worse fuel efficiency but much better start/stop times (offline to full capacity in 6 minutes) so they can effectively complement renewables very well.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Batteries are charged up during low-demand hours of the day and then for 2 or so high-demand hours of the day, they sell the electricity at the high rate on the wholesale market and make money on the spread while reducing peak load on the grid. That’s how batteries are being used. They’re not designed to give emergency power to the grid for a month; people need to wrap their brains around that.

    • Auld Kodjer says:

      SW – I concur with your broad conclusion, but there are a few nuances.

      At the network level, pumped hydro does seem a winner. Having said that, the major pumped hydro project in Australia – “Snowy 2.0” – has seen a cost blowout from its initial A$2 billion to A$13 billion along with several years delay. Such is the nature of major infrastructure projects, blowing a hole in the LCOE numbers

      But there are clear cases where batteries make sense at the community level. One example has arisen with the major bushfires in Australia in the last decade, taking out large sections of electricity transmission lines. For some rural and remote communities, the decision has been made for the whole community to go off-grid, as the cost of solar + diesel generators (mostly) + batteries (less so) is less than restoring the transmission lines.

      Smaller decentralised batteries – often owned by commercial businesses – are also increasing playing a role in stabilising the “frequency” of the network – which is slightly different and lucrative model than participating in arbitrage.

  27. Redundant says:

    Let’s not forget that Texas is focused on crypto mining and will do anything to keep the mines empowered with cheap access to energy.

    God bless the Texas Miracles and always hopeful for secession there and hoping it will wall itself off from America.

  28. Escierto says:

    Amidst all the naysayers and the Negative Nancys who say it cannot be done, one nation stands out as a beacon for humanity as to what is possible. Uruguay now gets 98% of its energy needs met through renewables. Go ahead and google it. Everyone who said it couldn’t be done – your heads may now explode, thank you very much!

    • rodolfo says:

      Costa rica renewable percentage is 90% or more I believe.

    • rojogrande says:

      That’s great for Uruguay. However, the United States consumes over four times as much energy per capita as Uruguay. The share of energy that can be provided by renewables will skyrocket in the United States if we reduce energy consumption by 75%. However, the required adjustment in the standard of living for most Americans probably would make their heads explode.

      • Escierto says:

        I actually spent several weeks in Uruguay considering it as a place to live. While it is not First World, it is definitely not Third World. Luis Suarez notwithstanding, the people are chill and down to earth. It is an eminently sensible country with some of the highest voter participation rates in the world. It doesn’t have the economic problems of Argentina in spite of their proximity.

    • JW says:

      The vast majority of Uruguay’s electricity ( NOT energy) requirements are from hydroelectricity. That has been around for more than a century!
      It also imports its peak requirements from Argentina and Brazil. Its wind and solar are ‘nice to have’ but are not particularly relevant to security of supply.

  29. MM says:

    Wolf – love this article (and the topic of energy more generally).

    Any chance you could do something similar for home heating fuels? I.e. nat gas vs propane vs heating oil vs wood vs electric.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      anecdotally MM:
      Decade or so ago, when set up with completely separate redundant propane and wood heat because of warnings re ice storm electrical outages in area lasting weeks, I crunched the numbers and came up with approximately 10% for wood cost vs. propane for heat only..
      Major delta was convenience of use: call the propane supplier, then just push the button for heat vs. either buy, pick up or have delivered, or cut wood, ”stack and age” either way, then bring to house, etc., etc.
      At same time, electricity was priced to equate BTUs of propane closely, assuming propane was purchased in August low range, or at least ”locked in” at that time for the winter heating season. Seemed as though there may have been a bit of collusion by the local good old boys.

      • MM says:

        VVnVet that’e more or less my heating setup. Nat gas furnace for primary heat, and a pellet stove for backup / augmentation. And a propane generator to run them in the event of a power failure.

  30. Clykke says:

    The march of natural gas goes on, at least its better than coal…

    Wind seems to have hit peak capacity right now. Solar looks to be the only bright spot for continued renewables growth.

  31. russell1200 says:

    My favorite battery/arbitrage is creating blocks of ice during the night (when central power generation is in maintain mode) to cool your building (with ices huge delta T) during the day. Trane, does (did?) make a system. A local school system used it on a high school and it seemed to work well as far as I could find out.

    Although solar/pv systems steam generation is one of the often spoken of storage methods, ice seems pretty viable for local generation/use in hot climates. Direct heating of hot water is common in small scale for residential.

  32. RickV says:

    I have rooftop solar in Ca and recently added a 7 panel array on the west side of my roof. I expect to generate electricity credits until 8pm in the summer AC months. This along with dropping the house temp to 71 before 3pm allows me to arbitrage the peak period pricing without a battery. PG&E has a new program this year, NEM3, that only provides for 10-15kwh batteries costing $10,000 to arbitrage to cheaper rates after midnight. I have a 75kwh battery in my Tesla M3 which would give me 3 days of stored electricity if integrated into my house electrical system. PG&E does not want this to happen and to my knowledge 75-100kwh batteries are not available for house storage. I’m not sure how the utilities prevent larger storage batteries in home electrical systems, but they do.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      The same way the electric utilities in FL make it SO challenging to install solar roof top electricity generation and feed to grid RV,,,
      They buy the politicians and bureaucrats lunch, eh

  33. Andrew P says:

    What is a “gigawatt of battery capacity”? Gigawatts are not units of energy.

    • Andrew P says:

      Ah, Stephen Waters above answered my question and provided more context.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      The maximum amount of energy that the batteries can release at a moment in time. That’s their capacity. Like a power plant has a capacity of 1 GW. If the batteries release that energy for an entire hour, it’s gigawatt-hours.

  34. Charlie says:

    Storage is not measured in units of GW (power), but in units of GWh, or kWh (energy, or power x time). For example, Powerwall from Tesla has 14.4 kWh, not 14.4 kW. Peak power is measured in units of power.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      It’s the capacity of the batteries to deliver that amount of power at a moment in time. The batteries are used for providing short-term power at the peaks during the day, for something like a couple of hours. This is not a battery backup for your home that is supposed to last 10 days or whatever.

  35. Milo says:

    Glad to see coal being at only 15%. Hopefully will drop another 10% by the end of the decade.

  36. Double Bluff says:

    I’m starting a company that will harness the power of electric eels. Figure on landing massive government grants followed by an IPO. Slogan: Put an eel in your tank!

    • rick m says:

      Double Bluff – that’s an idea with potential.
      Jokes aside, the Amazon river electric “eel”, actually a freshwater fish, can generate over one ampere of DC at a pulsed voltage of 400-600 volts with as many as four hundred pulses per second. And can go on doing it for days, with decreased frequency. The front twenty percent of it’s body does life function and most of the rest is specialized cells that primarily generate an individual electrical charge(Dangerous to Man, pg252,Caras,1964) It would be interesting to isolate and replicate the mechanism. With fast insulated-gate bipolar transistors and today’s engineering you can pretty much build any output waveform and values you want from whatever’s available energy wise as an input. It will eventually pencil out, the technology is just getting cheaper and better. I live on the Gulf in hurricane country, a fishpond generator would be sweet, put the Coleman ER’s and a dozen gascans to the curb.

  37. Paul says:

    Very interesting and informative. I thought hydro was much larger.

  38. danf51 says:

    So demand is down, prices for electricity are up. Thats not what I was taught to expect in economics 101. Of course those classes assumed free enterprise, not the corporatist regulatory state of today.

    Higher prices are mandated by government policy. The market, like many others, will divide into 2. Those with access to income and capital will build their own generating capacity, those who depend on government sponsored enterprises will pay more.

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      danf51 – would suggest utility-scale plant maintenance costs don’t follow decreases in demand when factored against supply (example of the conundrum is here in the dry West when generally ‘successful’ water conservation efforts result in increased rates to keep things going at reduced supply levels, especially if plants aren’t modular enough to allow economical idling from wetter, normal/increased demand periods…). Supply/demand, at core.

      may we all find a better day.

  39. Bruce A Forbes says:

    A late question but here it is. How would the whole electricity generation situation change in the USA if increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere turned out not to be a major problem?

    • 91B20 1stCav (AUS) says:

      BAF – ‘a major problem’ depending on your species, or species you depend on for your existence, I suppose. In any event, climates are seeing disruption from the greenhouse effect as we speak…

      may we all find a better day.

    • JimL says:

      What would you life be like if you had $100 billion dollars?

      So questions are so much theoretical fantasy that it isn’t worth wasting time on.

    • NBay says:

      According to NCEI’s Global Annual Temperature Outlook, there is a 22% chance that 2024 will rank as the warmest year on record, and a 99% chance that it will rank in the top five warmest years on record.

      Now go look up when the top 5 were.

      Unless you are one of those afterlife types, in which case you look forward to your particular “Rapture”….which also means you CAN’T think clearly, and in fact, are scared shitless of being alive without your daddy around.
      Barry G had a lot of faults , but he was sure right about all you, at least in this country, and too many others.

  40. John Stotes says:

    Side note: No is really fracking for dry gas, they are fracking for oil and and other energy liquids, and dry gas (what goes to electricity production) is a by-product. That is why gas prices are so low in North America, US/Canadian onshore oil production is up huge, fracked oil creates a lot of dry gas by-product and limited LNG terminal capcity to get it off our system creates massive oversupply not linked to electricty demand. And also flaring limits are requiring more E&P to develop pipelines to send the dry gas to an already oversupplied market. And as oil fields get older, they produce more Dry Gas and less liquids.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I wish we would all change the lingo to: “they’re fracking,” instead of “fracking for oil” or “fracking for gas,” since a fracked well produces a mix of hydrocarbons — a variety of liquids and gases that all are valuable. Trackers such as the Baker Hughes Rig Count classify wells as either oil or gas. But that’s a leftover from the time when wells were actually mostly either or.

  41. Salome says:

    Small nit: the unit of battery capacity is GWh ( 1 GigaWatt for 1 hour) . A battery also has a peak power in Watts which is the maximum power it can swallow or deliver at any instant, but for the installed capacity the GWh would be the right unit to use.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Batteries here are rated by their capacity, just a like a power plant, to supply electricity to the grid at a point in time (GW). That’s what matters here. These battery systems are not designed to provide backup power for a month. It’s for a couple of hours a day during demand peaks when prices are highest. People need to wrap their brains around the purpose of grid-connected batteries.

      • Dean says:

        Coal plants are required to report when their coal pile is below 30 days supply.

        There seems to be an industry standard that batteries are rated over 4 hours.

        100MW gas turbine has unlimited MWH assuming the gas shows up.

        100MW battery is best case 400MWH of energy. Then you need another source to carry load and recharge battery.

        Big difference and why renewables need to be massively overbuilt to get anywhere close to net zero.

        Unless there is a massive breakthrough in batteries the grid also needs to be nearly 100% backed up by Baseload generation if you want current reliability of electricity to continue.

        All the energy storage (Pumped Hydro, batteries, etc) on the US grid will support grid for a few minutes. Last # I had was about 2.5 minutes.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Energy storage is designed to take on short periods of peak loads that occur once a day. These brief periods of peak loads are what cause grids to fail. Efficient short-term storage, such as battery, is a huge concept for grid reliability. Because spot market rates are so high during peak load hours, battery storage is a big profit maker, charging up when energy is cheap and selling a few hours later when energy is expensive. That’s the arbitrage.

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