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Beating expectations: renewables soar in the US

Posted by: Lauren Cox 11 Mar 16  | Renewable Energy

What a week it’s been across both sides of the Atlantic, from the UK to the US in the world of renewables.

The Energy and Climate Change Committee are beginning to explore what challenges we’re up against in meeting the 2009 EU Renewable Energy Directive UK target of 15% clean energy by 2020 and creating reasonable solutions to achieve this target.

Highlighting the growing dominance of renewables in the US, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has released their latest Energy Infrastructure update, stating that all utility scale generation capacity came from wind and solar in January. This is a giant leap in the right direction, with no electrical generation at all coming from fossil fuels or nuclear power.

We already knew that fossil fuels have been well overtaken by renewables in the US (see our article on the US renewable revolution), but what we didn’t know was by how much! According to the FERC, renewable energy now constitutes towards 17.93% of the generation capacity in the US, and is broken down across the following:

Solar: 1.24%

Wind: 6.37%

Hydropower: 8.56%

Biomass: 1.43%

Geothermal: 0.33%

This smells even sweeter when considering that non-hydro installed renewables lie at 9.37%; beating nuclear and oil. All in all, overall renewable energy output has risen by 2% over the last year, completely outstripping expectations.

Still riding the renewable wave, a second report from the US Energy Information Administration highlighted that less than five years ago they predicted that renewables would provide about 250,000 thousand megawatt-hours in 2015. In reality though, output from utility scale generation hit a whopping 298,358 thousand megawatt-hours.

The uprising of renewables doesn’t stop there…

Does this really show that the US can generate most of its electricity from renewables by 2050? Well, if the US continue to push boundaries and gain such impressive results, surely it does. A study by the Department of Energy found that it is possible for renewables to account for 80% of power generation by utilising the technologies already available to us, from solar photovoltaics to wind turbines to geothermal energy.

But is the US renewable market facilitated in sustaining such record growth?

With the US Presidential election approaching, renewable energy policy is a question on everyone’s lips. We are at the centre of a long term global transition into renewables and the vast number of benefits have been communicated by the Government, by local councils, by celebrities (we’re talking about Leo’s acceptance speech at the Oscars…)

This, along with the fact that the US signed the UN agreement against climate change last year, means that the next US President has some shoes to fill and a significant impact to make!

Renewable energy world have even gone so far as to grade the Presidential candidates on their support for renewables. This scale sees Hilary Clinton achieving an A for her proposal of 80% renewables by 2050, whilst Donald Trump gets an F for proposing nothing in the way of a renewable policy.

It’s now time to believe in the climate change hype and work towards a cleaner, more sustainable future in the wonderful world of energy.


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