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US Renewable Sector is Growing, but still a small Contributor

by Roy L Hales

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The Sun Day Campaign has just released a press release proclaiming the fact non-hydro renewables outproduced hydropower for the first time in March 2014. Viewed alongside stats from the rest of the energy sector: the US renewable sector is growing, but still a small contributor.

US Renewable Production First Quarter, from EIA  - Roy L Hales
US Renewable Production First Quarter, in thousands of Megawatt hours, EIA stats – Roy L Hales

“For more than a decade, renewable energy sources – led by wind and solar – have been rapidly expanding their share of the nation’s electrical generation,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The most recent data affirm that the trend is continuing unabated.”

He pointed out that “Hydropower accounted for 6.13% of net U.S. electrical generation for the period, followed by wind (4.82%), biomass (1.46%), geothermal (0.39%), and solar (0.29%).”

The EIA predict strong growth in the wind and solar sectors. As you can see from the map at the top of this page, most of the new wind developments will be occurring in Texas and midWestern states. Around 70% of the utility scale solar growth will occur in California. By 2015 wind energy is expected to contribute 4.5% of US energy and solar 0.5%.

Impressive as the renewable sector’s growth is, these numbers still pale beside those of the fossil fuel sector.

I just finished an interview in which we were talking about a 100% renewable grid. Most of the necessary ingredients are already in play, but we are not there yet. These stats are a jarring snap back to the present reality.

All America's Energy Sources during First Quarter - Roy L Hales
All America’s Energy Sources during First Quarter, in thousands of Megawatt hours – Roy L Hales

Coal is still king. EIA predicts coal production will grow 4.4% to 1,028 million short tons (MMst) in 2014, driven by higher consumption. Most of this will be lost through the implementation of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and a number of coal plants are expected to retire by March 2015. Rnewable energy is expected to make up the difference.

America’s second biggest largest energy source, natural gas, is expected to “grow by an average rate of 3.0% in 2014 and 1.8% in 2015.”

Nuclear Energy is #3

Renewables are #4. Or if you wish to divide them: non hydro has just become  #4 and hydroelectric #5

That is the present reality.

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Retiring US Utility Scale Units to March 2015 (Click on map to expand) – EIA

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