10 charts that sum up 2023’s clean energy progress

The shift to clean energy is underway. These charts show how, where — and how fast — that transition is happening.
By Maria Virginia Olano

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a bar graph superimposed over an aerial photo of an onshore wind farm
(Binh Nguyen/Canary Media)

As a team of writers and editors, we at Canary Media certainly believe in the power of the written word. But when you’re reporting on a story as big as the energy transition, sometimes text alone doesn’t cut it.

That’s why we spend so much time digging through spreadsheets and creating charts about the rapid rise of clean energy and the impending but too-slow fall of fossil fuels. Here are the 10 most popular charts we published this year.

1. The U.S. climate law is fueling a factory frenzy. Here’s the latest tally

The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law in August 2022, aimed to bring a clean energy manufacturing boom to the U.S. through generous subsidies. So far, the plan is working: In the law’s first year, more than 100 new clean energy manufacturing facilities or factory expansions were announced, adding up to nearly $80 billion in new investment from private companies. Can you guess where most of that investment is going? Here’s a hint: It’s a state known for its peaches.

2. Renewables are on track to keep getting cheaper and cheaper

While fossil fuels have not gotten cheaper with time, renewable energy costs have plummeted over the past few decades. That’s made them more cost-effective than fossil fuels in many cases — and also more attractive to new investments. These cost declines are not expected to stop anytime soon. In fact, by 2030, technology improvements could slash the price of wind energy by a quarter and of solar by half. 

3. Americans bought more heat pumps than gas furnaces last year

Even before incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act kicked in, Americans bought a record-setting 4 million heat pumps in 2022, outpacing the sale of fossil-fueled gas furnaces. Heat-pump sales are growing around the world too, especially in European countries seeking to end their reliance on fossil gas. 

4. The remarkable rise of California’s grid battery capacity

California’s energy storage capacity has surged tenfold in just the past three years; in 2020, the state had just 500 megawatts of grid battery storage, and now it has over 5,000 megawatts. That means batteries are coming online faster than any other sort of power plant, helping to store solar and avoid blackouts throughout the state. 

5. The U.S. can’t meet its climate goals unless states step up

The United States is not currently on track to meet its goal of cutting emissions in half by 2030. But if the 24 states that have targets of their own can meet those pledges, the country could get pretty close to that national goal. The problem? Those states are also currently not on track to meet their targets.

6. Here’s where utility-scale solar is located in the U.S.

Solar installations are skyrocketing in the United States, and this reader-favorite map shows where many of the country’s utility-scale solar systems are located. The map reveals a high concentration of solar in Massachusetts and North Carolina, though when accounting for power-generating capacity, California and Texas are far ahead of the rest of the country.

7. Who’s the leader in utility-scale solar — California or Texas?

Our readers just can’t get enough of utility-scale solar data. In this case, the chart shows California on the brink of losing its spot as the U.S. leader in utility-scale solar — and to Texas, no less. Since we made this chart in February, the Lone Star State has officially surpassed California.

8. Clean energy to make up 84% of new U.S. power capacity in 2023

Though they still make up just 20 percent of overall power generation, solar, batteries and wind account for the most new power flowing to the U.S. grid — and it’s not even close. In 2023, clean energy will have accounted for the vast majority of all new power capacity added to the U.S. grid, while fossil-fueled plants will make up just 16 percent of new capacity. 

9. U.S. EV sales are having a record-setting year

Despite recent gloomy headlines, the U.S. electric-vehicle market is actually well past the tipping point for mass adoption, and EV sales in the U.S. surpassed the 1 million mark for the first time this year. That trend is likely to be helped along by federal and state rebates for EVs — plus price drops from automakers, all of which have brought EVs closer than ever in price to cars with internal combustion engines. In some cases, they’re actually cheaper.

10. Global renewables deployments to hit record levels in 2023

Though our charts tend to focus on the U.S., the energy transition is not just happening in America. Just take a look at renewable installations around the world in 2023, which were projected to hit a new record of more than 400 gigawatts in total — a 100-gigawatt jump from 2022. The enormous amount of new power capacity is mostly from solar, both distributed and utility-scale, and onshore wind — and mostly based in China. 

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Maria Virginia Olano is chief of staff at Canary Media.