NREL Numbers Demonstrate Value of Renewable Energy Policies

Renewable energy stakeholders once again find themselves at a time of the year where being optimistic about the growth of clean energy alternatives is not easy to muster. Congressional funding of farm energy programs remain uncertain during this time of appropriations consideration. Renewable energy production and investment tax credits remain in limbo as they again face an end-of-the-year expiration date. And this year is especially grueling, given EPA’s proposal to reverse course on a very successful renewable energy policy by reducing the biofuel blending limits under the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.

Fortunately, it does not take long to get a reminder that cuts through all of the adversity and shows that, in fact, renewable energy remains on the fast track as a significant contributor to our national energy strategy.

The latest Renewable Energy Data Book from DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that renewable sources of electricity, particularly solar power and wind energy, have doubled in the United States since the turn of the new millennium.

Electricity from renewable sources now make up 12.4 percent of total U.S. generation and 23 percent of all electricity generation worldwide.

The 128-page 2012 report is an annual assessment of U.S. energy statistics that gives policy makers the information on the current state of both domestic and global renewable energy sectors; along with investment trends in clean energy.

Not surprisingly, wind and solar photovoltaics were the fastest growing renewable energy technologies last year, with wind growing by 28 percent in the United States over the previous year and solar photovoltaics booming by 83 percent compared with 2011.

On a global scale, solar capacity grew by a factor of 49 between 2000 and 2012, while wind energy increased by 16-fold over the same period.

In the United States, the wind number is even better, growing 25-fold since 2000, and accounting for 75 percent of all newly installed renewable electricity capacity last year. That includes Texas, which installed more than 12 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy capacity in 2012.

Overall, renewable electricity represented 14 percent of total installed capacity and more than 12 percent of total electric generation in 2012, with installed renewable electricity capacity now at more than 163 GW.

The NREL says that renewable electricity has been capturing a growing percentage of new capacity additions during the past few years. In 2012, renewable electricity accounted for more than 56 percent of all new electrical capacity installations in the United States, a huge increase from 2004 when renewable electricity installations captured only 2 percent of new capacity additions.

Also, since 2006, the United States has been the world’s leading ethanol producer. Between 2000 and 2012, U.S. production of corn ethanol increased by a factor of 8, and the use of ethanol in gasoline blends in the United States has tripled since 2005.

These NREL numbers all reflect remarkable growth of renewable energy in this country. The 25x’25 Alliance urges lawmakers to sustain this growth and stay the course on the congressional policies that enhance U.S. energy security, boost our economy (especially in rural areas) and help reduce emissions into our climate.

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