Renewable Energy Surges Ahead

December 24, 2013

Wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower are giving coal and natural gas a run for their money.

The global renewable electricity capacity doubled between 2000 and 2012, according to the 2012 Renewable Energy Data Book, an annual report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). Clean energy investments in the U.S. represent a significant portion of this growth.

Installed renewable electricity capacity in the U.S. has grown at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 4.8% per year from 2000 to 2012. As of 2012, total renewable electricity generation is comprised of 55% hydropower, 28% wind, 11% biomass, 3% solar, and 3% geothermal.

Renewable electricity accounted for more than 56% of all new electrical capacity installations in 2012, generating over 163 gW. This is a major increase from 2004 when renewable electricity installations captured only 2% of new additions.

Wind and solar energy are two of the fastest growing electric generation technologies. Wind alone accounted for about 75% of new installations. Cumulative installed wind energy capacity increased by nearly 28%, whereas PV grew more than 83% from the previous year.

Even though commercial buildings consume 18.4% of total U.S. energy, renewables represent less than 1% of their energy use. By contrast, residential users depend on 3.2% renewables and industrial sites draw 7.2% of their energy from clean sources.