Solar topped coal in Texas for the first time ever in March

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Solar topped coal’s output in Texas for the first time in any month, sending 3.26 million megawatt-hours (MWh) onto the grid vs. coal’s 2.96 million MWh in March.

ERCOT’s generation data also revealed that coal’s market share fell below 10% for the first time ever to just over 9%. The decline began a decade ago but has picked up speed since 2016-17, when solar first showed up in the generation data, reports the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) today.

In March 2024, solar generation reached 3.26 million MWh, according to the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) hourly grid monitor. The increase pushed solar’s share of ERCOT generation to more than 10% for the month, also a first.

Texas is the No 1 state for solar capacity. Solar generation in Texas has been climbing steadily and continues to gain momentum. Generation in March 2024 was 1.17 million MWh more year-over-year, a 56% increase.

According to IEEFA, ERCOT data shows that the system currently has 22,710 megawatts (MW) of operational solar capacity but is expected to expand by almost one-third by the end of 2024, as another 7,168 MW of capacity is added. The figure counts only Texas solar projects that have a signed interconnection agreement and have set aside the financing required to get onto the ERCOT grid.

Even more growth is coming in the state in 2025, where projects with 20,932 MW of capacity are in a similar stage of development. There are thousands of additional megawatts of solar capacity in earlier stages of development.

In contrast, coal’s share of the ERCOT market has been steadily declining. From 2003 through 2014, coal’s annual share of ERCOT demand ranged from 33-40%. By 2020, coal had dropped under 20% and was less than 15% in 2023, supplying just 13.9% of the system’s total demand.

IEEFA’s researchers note that “importantly, the annual average is not being skewed by a couple of months of extremely low generation. Rather, coal’s market share in ERCOT is declining across the board, even during the sweltering summer months.”

Coal’s decline in Texas is a big deal because the Lone Star State has long been the No 1 user of coal for power generation in the US. It burned twice as much as second-place Missouri in 2023 and 13% of the US total.

At the national level, in a first, EIA grid monitor data reflects that coal’s share of national electric generation was less than 15% every day in March. Coal’s national market share also hit a daily record low on March 29, dropping to just 11.25%.

Coal’s poor March performance is notable because, in recent years, it’s been April and May when its national market share has been at its lowest. IEEFA researchers say it’s “entirely possible that it could fall into the single digits on some days this spring.”

Read more: Texas installs another big solar + battery storage project


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