Given the resistance in some corners of Congress to the role of renewable energy in meeting the nation’s energy needs, questions sometimes arise as to the progress being made toward the 25x’25 goal.
However, due to a number of renewable energy technologies hitting what many analysts are calling a “turning point” – low costs coupled with wide availability – that signifies not only the acceptance but unstoppable growth in the energy market, the goal remains readily obtainable.
The progress being made toward the goal was demonstrated with data recently released by DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing that in 2014, renewable energy sources accounted for 13.19 percent of net U.S. electrical generation (hydropower – 6.32 percent; wind – 4.44 percent; biomass – 1.57 percent; solar – 0.45 percent; and geothermal – 0.41 percent).
Meanwhile, in the transportation sector, the production of biofuels continue to trend high, even though progress was hindered by policy insecurity due to a lack of EPA finality on setting Renewable Fuel Standard requirements last year.
Taking hydropower out of the equation, net electrical generation from other renewable energy sources, including biomass, geothermal, solar, wind, increased in 2014 by 10.9 percent over the previous year. Much of that increase can be attributed to the fact that generation from solar facilities more than doubled (103 percent). Elsewhere, wind energy grew 8.3 percent, biomass by 5.7 percent and geothermal by 5.4 percent.
Those increases dwarf the increases in shares of the energy market held by nuclear power, which rose only 1 percent, and coal, which inched up only 0.3 percent. Hydropower generation dropped by 3.7 percent. But electrical generation from natural gas also fell, by 0.3 percent.
Making renewable energy’s growth in its share of the nation’s net electrical generation stand out even more is the fact that energy sources from all sources – fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables ‑ increased last year by only 0.7 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year.
Last year marked a significant “first” ‑ the amount of electricity generated by non-hydro renewables, 281 million megawatt hours (MWh), exceeded that produced by hydropower, 259 million MWh. In fact, when looking back over the past decade, electrical generation from non-hydro renewable resources has more than tripled, according to EIA numbers.
Meanwhile, the EIA monthly report also shows year-over-year increases in biofuel production and consumption. The amount of ethanol and biodiesel generated in 2014 was 6.5 percent greater than the year before, while consumers used 4 percent more of the biofuels last year. Aside from EIA data, industry figures show increasingly wider availability of higher ethanol blends, like E15. The number of flex-fuel vehicles now on the road is fast approaching 18 million, indicating wider use of E85.
Additional evidence that stakeholders are well on their way to achieving the 25x’25 goal comes from EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2015 released this week. In projecting that energy demand will grow 0.3 percent annually through 2040, the agency says renewables will meet much of that growth in demand.
Both the 2014 figures and the forward-looking annual outlook demonstrate the critical role of renewable energy in meeting U.S. energy needs. The data underscore the need for lawmakers and regulators to stay the course and support those policies that assure the continued growth of renewables as a significant part of the nation’s energy strategy.