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Road to Decarbonization: The United States Electricity Mix

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Road to Decarbonization: The United States Electricity Mix


The U.S. response to climate change and decarbonization is ramping up, and putting a focus on the country’s electricity mix.

As pressure has increased for near-term and immediate action after the UN’s latest IPCC report on climate change, major economies are starting to make bolder pledges. For the United States, that includes a carbon pollution-free utilities sector by 2035.

But with 50 states and even more territories—each with different energy sources readily available and utilized—some parts of the U.S. are a lot closer to carbon-free electricity than others.

How does each state’s electricity mix compare? This infographic from the National Public Utilities Council highlights the energy sources used for electricity in U.S. states during 2020, using data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The U.S. Electricity Generation Mix By State

How does the United States generate electricity currently?

Over the course of 2020, the U.S. generated 4,009 TWh of electricity, with the majority coming from fossil fuels. Natural gas (40.3%) was the biggest source of electricity for the country, accounting for more than nuclear (19.7%) and coal (17.3%) combined.

Including nuclear energy, non-fossil fuels made up 41.9% of U.S. electricity generation in 2020. The biggest sources of renewable electricity in the U.S. were wind (8.4%) and hydro (7.3%).

But on a state-by-state breakdown, we can see just how different the electricity mix is across the country (rounded to the nearest percentage).

State (Electricity Source 2020) Coal Gas Oil Nuclear Hydro Geothermal Solar Wind Biomass and Other
Alabama 16% 40% 0% 32% 9% 0% 0% 0% 3%
Alaska 13% 38% 16% 0% 31% 0% 0% 3% 1%
Arizona 13% 46% 0% 29% 6% 0% 6% 1% 0%
Arkansas 29% 32% 0% 29% 8% 0% 1% 0% 2%
California 0% 47% 0% 8% 11% 6% 16% 7% 4%
Colorado 36% 34% 0% 0% 4% 0% 3% 24% 0%
Connecticut 0% 57% 0% 38% 1% 0% 1% 0% 3%
D.C. 0% 65% 0% 0% 0% 0% 9% 0% 26%
Delaware 2% 92% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 0% 4%
Florida 7% 75% 1% 12% 0% 0% 3% 0% 3%
Georgia 12% 49% 0% 28% 4% 0% 3% 0% 5%
Hawaii 11% 0% 66% 0% 1% 2% 6% 6% 7%
Idaho 0% 21% 0% 0% 59% 1% 3% 14% 3%
Illinois 16% 14% 0% 58% 0% 0% 0% 10% 3%
Indiana 48% 36% 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 7% 8%
Iowa 21% 12% 0% 5% 2% 0% 0% 58% 3%
Kansas 28% 6% 0% 20% 0% 0% 0% 43% 3%
Kentucky 62% 23% 0% 0% 7% 0% 0% 0% 8%
Louisiana 4% 70% 3% 17% 1% 0% 0% 0% 5%
Maine 1% 17% 0% 0% 34% 0% 0% 24% 23%
Maryland 8% 39% 0% 42% 5% 0% 2% 2% 3%
Massachusetts 0% 76% 0% 0% 5% 0% 9% 2% 8%
Michigan 24% 33% 1% 29% 2% 0% 0% 6% 5%
Minnesota 22% 20% 0% 26% 2% 0% 3% 22% 6%
Mississippi 6% 80% 0% 10% 0% 0% 1% 0% 3%
Missouri 63% 11% 0% 11% 3% 0% 0% 5% 8%
Montana 32% 2% 2% 0% 47% 0% 0% 13% 5%
Nebraska 47% 4% 0% 17% 4% 0% 0% 24% 5%
Nevada 5% 66% 0% 0% 5% 10% 13% 1% 0%
New Hampshire 0% 22% 0% 59% 9% 0% 0% 3% 7%
New Jersey 1% 50% 0% 44% 0% 0% 3% 0% 2%
New Mexico 34% 36% 1% 0% 1% 0% 5% 21% 3%
New York 0% 40% 0% 29% 24% 0% 1% 4% 2%
North Carolina 15% 34% 0% 34% 5% 0% 7% 0% 4%
North Dakota 52% 4% 0% 0% 8% 0% 0% 31% 5%
Ohio 33% 44% 1% 15% 0% 0% 0% 2% 5%
Oklahoma 6% 52% 0% 0% 5% 0% 0% 35% 1%
Oregon 3% 29% 0% 0% 52% 0% 2% 13% 2%
Pennsylvania 9% 52% 0% 33% 2% 0% 0% 2% 3%
Rhode Island 0% 92% 0% 0% 0% 0% 3% 3% 3%
South Carolina 11% 25% 0% 56% 3% 0% 2% 0% 3%
South Dakota 9% 7% 0% 0% 51% 0% 0% 33% 1%
Tennessee 17% 20% 0% 47% 13% 0% 0% 0% 2%
Texas 15% 52% 0% 9% 0% 0% 2% 20% 3%
Utah 55% 25% 0% 0% 3% 1% 7% 2% 7%
Vermont 0% 0% 0% 0% 58% 0% 8% 16% 18%
Virginia 3% 61% 0% 30% 2% 0% 1% 0% 4%
Washington 4% 12% 0% 8% 66% 0% 0% 7% 2%
West Virginia 80% 5% 0% 0% 3% 0% 0% 3% 9%
Wisconsin 36% 35% 0% 16% 5% 0% 0% 3% 6%
Wyoming 73% 3% 0% 0% 3% 0% 0% 12% 8%

At a glance, regional availability of a fuel source and historical use is clear.

For example, coal is the most-used electricity source in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Wyoming, historical coal rich regions and economies.

On the flip side, the Pacific Northwest and New England generated the most hydroelectricity, and the biggest producers of wind energy were all located in the Great Plains. Even the biggest percentage producers of solar and geothermal energy, California and Nevada, have plenty of access to sunlight and geothermal activity.

The Changing Electricity Landscape

But for the U.S. to reach its ambitious carbon-free goal by 2035, the biggest impact will need to come from the biggest electricity producers.

That title currently goes to Texas, which generated 12% of total U.S. electricity in 2020. Despite being the most populous state, California generated less than half Texas’ output, and less than both Florida and Pennsylvania.

State Electricity Generated 2020 (TWh)
Texas 475.5
Florida 249.7
Pennsylvania 231.0
California 194.1
Illinois 173.6
Alabama 135.9
New York 132.0
North Carolina 124.0
Ohio 121.1
Georgia 119.3
Washington 114.2
Arizona 109.6
Michigan 104.9
Virginia 102.3
Louisiana 102.0
South Carolina 98.2
Indiana 89.9
Oklahoma 83.6
Tennessee 77.5
Missouri 73.4
Mississippi 65.8
Oregon 64.9
Kentucky 63.4
New Jersey 61.5
Wisconsin 61.0
Iowa 59.4
West Virginia 56.8
Minnesota 56.6
Kansas 54.3
Colorado 54.2
Arkansas 52.9
North Dakota 42.8
Wyoming 41.7
Connecticut 41.2
Nevada 40.5
Utah 37.1
Nebraska 36.9
Maryland 36.1
New Mexico 34.4
Montana 23.7
Idaho 19.3
Massachusetts 18.3
South Dakota 17.0
New Hampshire 16.7
Maine 10.4
Hawaii 9.3
Rhode Island 8.0
Alaska 5.9
Delaware 5.0
Vermont 2.4
D.C. 0.2

So although it’s positive that many states in the Pacific Northwest and New England have more plentiful non-fossil fuel electricity, their overall impact on the total U.S. picture is lessened.

Still, more and more states (and countries) are increasing their efforts and ambitions to decarbonize, and that progress makes it easier and more affordable over time. States that might struggle to attain carbon-free electricity, or where costs are too high, face less hurdles as technology improves and subsidies increase.

And with most major U.S. based utilities focusing on improving their ESG reporting and keeping up with decarbonization pledges of their own, the total electricity mix is expected to shift rapidly over the next decade.

National Public Utilities Council is the go-to resource for all things decarbonization in the utilities industry. Learn more.



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