Renewables gaining ground in the US

 By Eniday Staff

The proportion of electricity being generated from renewable sources is growing worldwide, but the rate of growth is not the same everywhere…

Some countries are way ahead, some are making rapid progress, and others seem to have come to a complete halt. It all depends on what incentives are available, how effective they are and how long they last.
It may, therefore, come as a surprise that the United States – the world’s biggest oil and natural gas producer – is seeing particularly strong growth in electricity production from non-fossil, non-nuclear sources. Forms of government support for renewables were only established in recent years in the US, but renewables are now growing at a similar rate to in Europe.
Between 2008 and 2018, “green” energy production in the United States increased from 382 to 742 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), bringing the proportion of renewables to 17.6% of the overall total. This is a significant achievement, even if renewables only account for just over 6% of the country’s total final energy consumption.

United States President Donald Trump has pushed his administration toward “energy dominance” by cutting environmental regulations on fossil fuel development (Official White House Photos, D. Myles Cullen)

Renewals gain ground

Let’s look in detail at the data published by the EIA (United States Energy Information Administration) and see how it compares. The first statistic that leaps out is the incredible growth in wind and solar power in the United States over the last ten years. Wind power has grown from 55 to 275 billion kWh (having reached 168 billion by 2013), while solar power went from less than 1 to 67 billion kWh (9 billion in 2013).
This surge is mainly down to some individual states, most notably California, famous for the wind farms it actually invented way back in the 1980s. Hydropower has also seen an increase, albeit far more limited (from 255 to 292 billion kWh), while biomass energy only increased from 55 to 63 billion kWh.
The absolute figures are certainly impressive. The United States generated 713 billion kWh of renewable energy in 2018 (2200 kWh per capita), which is nearly three quarters the amount produced in the European Union (a shade under a thousand billion, but less than 2000 kWh per capita).
However, a look at the percentages really shows the efforts Europe is making to decarbonize its energy system.

Ivanpah Solar Power Facility, a concentrated solar thermal plant in the California Mojave Desert (Jllm06, Wikimedia)

Where do we stand in Europe?

The proportion of renewable energy out of total final energy consumption in Europe grew from 8.5% in 2004 to 17.5% in 2017, as the continent works towards the goal of 20% by the end of 2020.
Italy is playing its part, with a rise from 6.3% to the current 18.3%, exceeding the 17% target set by Brussels well in advance. That is no accident: just over 40% of the total energy generated in Italy in 2018 came from renewable sources, according to data from grid operator Terna. Meanwhile, many other European countries – especially the larger ones – are actually behind on their EU objectives. Having been set a target of 20%, France and Spain are on 16.3% and 17.5% respectively, whereas Germany is on 15.5% against its target of 18%.
But the foundations have been laid and not just in old Europe, but now – given results in recent years – in the New World as well.

READ ALSO: Mister renewables by Andrew Burger

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Eniday Staff