EIA, Ceres Analyses Add More Evidence of Significant Role of Renewables

It is our mission in this space to pass along meaningful information that can be used to take to policy makers the arguments for the 25x’25 vision of a clean energy future. Given the inevitability we believe the major role renewable energy will play in that future, the information we pass along can often be seen as redundant, distinctive only by its source.

That’s why a recent analysis from the DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) offers significant credibility to the argument that renewables are a critical part of this nation’s energy future.

The EIA, which only in recent years has begun devoting any attention of weight to renewable energy’s contributions to the U.S. energy market, says in its analysis that extending tax credits and efficiency standards, as well as strengthening the Clean Power Plan (CPP) beyond 2030, would not only boost renewable energy production, but also significantly reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

In EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2016 (AEO2016) reference case projection, which generally assumes current laws and policies, electricity generation from solar and wind sources across all sectors increases from 227 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2015 to 950 billion kWh in 2040.

In the Extended Policies case, which perpetuates policies such as production and incentive tax credits for renewable energy projects, beyond their legislated expiration, solar and wind generation grow to 1,236 billion kWh in 2040, or 30 percent more than the reference case level.

In their Extended Policies case, the EIA analysts also push beyond their statutory shelf life federal policies that encourage the adoption of efficient appliances and equipment in the residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors. Reductions in transportation energy use in the Extended Policies case are driven by and extension of fuel economy requirements that further decrease energy consumption in light-duty, medium-duty and heavy-duty vehicles, the EIA says. (Energy efficiency is the option of first choice under the 25x’25 Vision.)

While the fact that these findings are coming from a source as authoritative as the EIA is gratifying, it should be noted that many private sector analysts find the agency’s projections as far too conservative – a complaint long maintained by the renewable energy industry and somewhat admitted to by the agency earlier this year (though EIA says it continues to improve the accuracy of its projections).

Christopher Arcus writes on the Clean Technica website this week that in its latest analysis, the EIA assumes that renewable energy growth will lag once government subsidies diminish or end, beginning in 2020.

“The EIA just doesn’t seem to get that the market is dynamic and interactive,” Arcus says. “[EIA’s] approach is too static, and it seems to ignore trends like the falling prices of solar and wind compared to other sources.”

The take-away from the EIA report, nonetheless, is that by maintaining and strengthening enabling policies, less energy will be consumed and what is consumed will be cleaner.

Reinforcing those benefits is another analysis, this one from Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy organization, finding that many of the nation’s largest electric utilities and their local subsidiaries are moving toward cleaner, lower carbon fuel sources, driven by ambitious state policies and strong corporate demand for renewable energy.

Co-authored by Clean Edge, a clean-tech research and advisory firm, the study ranks the 30 largest electric utility holding companies and their 119 subsidiary companies, which collectively account for about 60 percent of U.S. retail electricity sales. The results show overall advances on renewable energy and energy efficiency in 2014, the latest year for which data is available, with some utilities producing 25 to 35 percent of their electricity from wind, solar and other renewables.

That the Ceres report cites the forward thinking leadership on renewables being demonstrated by states and many of the nation’s largest businesses should serve notice to federal lawmakers that there is a consensus that the time is now to accelerate the development of renewable energy. The timely enactment of policies that promote renewables allows this country to begin reaping as widely as possible the vast environmental, economic and public health benefits clean energy offers.

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