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Clean energy projects are off to a slow start

Alan Neuhauser
May 23, 2023
Data: American Clean Power; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: American Clean Power; Chart: Axios Visuals

Last year saw an 11% jump in projects planned on paper — but the first drop since 2017 in those actually built and switched on.

Why it matters: The slowdown in putting steel in the ground seems to be carrying over to this year, with Q1 seeing the slowest pace of clean energy development since 2020.

By the numbers: Developers installed 25.5 GW of new solar, wind and battery storage. That's down 15% from the record year in 2021, per American Clean Power's year-in-review market report.

  • You've read all about the reasons: trade disputes with China, shortages of skilled labor, backlogs for permitting and interconnection, and some supply chain problems left over from the pandemic.

Plus: The wind sector's been having costly mechanical problems all its own.

Meanwhile, announced projects swelled to 137 GW, returning to 2021 levels. The bulk of those are solar, followed by on-shore wind, battery storage, and offshore wind.

What we're watching: How soon the backlogs clear. This year is already off to a glacial start, with new installations in Q1 falling 36% compared to the same period last year.

  • That's the slowest Q1 since 2020, Ben Geman points out in Generate.

The bottom line: Send all the press releases you want about projects on paper. Putting steel in the ground and connecting to the grid remain the big challenges.

Yes, but: Texas lawmakers may be doing all they can to kill renewables, and yet the state was once again the U.S. leader in clean energy deployment.

  • It added twice as much generating capacity from renewables and storage as any other state.
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