EIA: Solar Power rising to 20 percent of U.S. Electricity Mix by 2050

Nov. 16, 2021
Over the next 30 years utility-scale solar projects could drive the resource to parity or better against wind, coal, nuclear and hydropower

For all the hype, solar power is still a relatively small part of the U.S. electricity generation mix compared with wind, hydro and yes, coal, gas and nuclear.

The residential, rooftop type of solar photovoltaic drove its early growth, now about four percent of total net U.S. generation, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. Solar adoption this year could push that to 5 percent in 2022, the EIA says.

Over the next 30 years, however, utility-scale solar projects will drive the resource to parity or better against coal, nuclear and hydropower. The EIA forecast released Tuesday predicts that U.S. solar power will generate 14 percent of the whole mix by 2035 and 20 percent by 2050.

“In our long-term projections, the electric power sector continues to produce the most solar generation, increasing from 68% of total solar generation in 2020 to 78% in 2050,” the EIA report reads. “The growing share of utility-scale generation is due in part to the availability of a 10% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) after 2023; in contrast, the ITC for small-scale solar has expired.”

If natural gas prices rise significantly over the next three decades, solar’s stake in the U.S. electricity could rise to 25 percent. Gas-fired generation currently represents about 38 percent of the U.S. utility-scale portfolio, while coal and nuclear are close to 20 percent each.