Evidence of the continued growth of renewable energy as a major plank in the U.S. energy platform continues to come from creditable sources, including the 2013 Renewable Energy Data Book issued by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
The annual assessment illustrates U.S. and global energy statistics, including renewable electricity generation, renewable energy development, clean energy investments and technology-specific data and trends. It is an important resource for policy makers, analysts and investors worldwide, displaying renewable energy trends in an accessible format.
Key U.S. findings from the data book include:
· Since 2000, cumulative renewable electricity installations in the United States have nearly doubled, and in 2013 they represented 171 GW of installed U.S. capacity. Every renewable electricity technology added capacity in 2013, with overall renewable electricity capacity increasing 4.6 percent.
· Renewable electricity grew to nearly 15 percent of total installed capacity and 13 percent of total electricity generation in 2013. Installed renewable electricity capacity exceeded 171 gigawatts (GW) in 2013, generating 534 terawatt hours.
· In 2013, solar electricity was the fastest growing electricity generation technology, with cumulative installed capacity increasing by nearly 66 percent from the previous year.
· Wind electricity generation increased 20 percent in 2013, most from capacity built in 2012, while capacity grew only 1.8 percent in 2013 as project development slowed with the uncertainty over federal tax policy.
· Renewable electricity has been capturing a growing percentage of new capacity additions over the past decade, accounting for more than 61 percent of all new electricity capacity installations in the country in 2013. By comparison, renewable electricity captured only four percent of new capacity additions in 2004.
· Installed renewable electricity capacity has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 4.8 percent per year from 2000 to 2013, and renewable electricity in 2013 was 14.8 percent of total overall installed electricity capacity and 13.1 percent of total annual generation in the United States.
· Over the timeframe of 2008 to 2013, total renewable electricity generation increased by 40 percent, while non-hydro renewable electricity generation more than doubled.
· In 2013, solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) were the fastest growing renewable electricity technologies, with cumulative installed PV capacity increasing by nearly 65 percent (7.3 GW to 12.0 GW) and CSP capacity increasing by 81 percent (0.5 GW to 0.9 GW). Solar PV accounted for about 63 percent of U.S. renewable electricity installed in 2013.
· Biodiesel was the fastest growing biofuel type, with production increasing by 64 percent in the United States and 17 percent globally, from a relatively small base.
It should be pointed out that several renewable energy sectors, including wind and solar, experienced strong growth in 2014, so expect the NREL numbers for last year to reflect even greater expansion of these critical energy resources when the next data book is published next January.
The NREL publication and the picture it paints of the growth of renewable energy and the path it could take in the future underscores the need for lawmakers to debate and build a long-term, comprehensive energy policy for this country. Developing a strategy now that truly reflects the “all-of-the-above” approach to energy use will insure the orderly development of the resources needed to meet what is forecast to be a significant increase in demand over the next few decades.