Renewables Expand 27% Since 2008, Now 12% of Domestic Energy Production

According to the most recent issue of the "Monthly Energy Review" by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with data through December 31, 2011, renewable energy sources expanded rapidly during the last three years while outpacing the growth rates of fossil fuels and nuclear power. Between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2011, renewable energy sources (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) grew by 27.12%. By comparison, during the same three-year period, total domestic energy production increased by just 6.72% with natural gas and crude oil production growing by 13.66% and 14.27% respectively. Moreover, during the same period, nuclear power declined by 1.99% and coal dropped by 7.16%. Looking at all energy sectors (e.g., electricity, transportation, thermal), renewable energy sources accounted for 11.74% of domestic energy production in 2011 – compared to 9.85% in 2008. In fact, renewable energy sources provided 10.90% more energy in 2011 than did nuclear power, although nuclear still provides a larger share of the nation’s electricity. (On the consumption side, which includes oil and other energy imports, renewable sources accounted for 9.29% of total U.S. energy use during 2011.) During the first three years of the Obama Administration, geothermal grew by 15.63%, hydropower by 26.28%, solar by 28.09%, biofuels by 46.58%, and wind by 113.92%. Only biomass dipped - by 1.21%. Hydropower accounted for 34.62% of domestic energy production from renewable sources in 2011, followed by biomass (26.75%), biofuels (22.20%), wind (12.75%), geothermal (2.42%), and solar (1.24%). Looking at just the electricity sector, according to EIA’s "Electric Power Monthly," with data through December 31, 2011, net electrical generation by non-hydro renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) grew by 54.6% during the last three years. During the same period, conventional hydropower expanded by 27.6%. Combined, electrical output from renewable energy sources was 36.5% greater for calendar year 2011 than it was for calendar year 2008. By comparison, between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2011, natural gas used in electrical generation grew by 15.1% while nuclear and coal dropped by 2.0% and 12.7% respectively. During 2011, hydro and non-hydro renewables combined accounted for 12.67% of net electrical generation compared to 9.25% in 2008. Comparing the 12-months of 2011 against the same time period in 2008, wind grew by 116.3%, solar by 110.0%, hydropower by 27.6%, geothermal by 12.5%, and biomass by 3.1%. For all of 2011, non-hydro renewables accounted for 4.75% of net electrical generation while conventional hydropower accounted for 7.91%. However, non-hydro renewables have been growing rapidly and for the last quarter of 2011, they accounted for 5.5% of net U.S. electrical generation. Among the non-hydro renewables contributing to net electrical generation in 2011, wind accounted for 61.4%, followed by biomass (29.1%), geothermal (8.6%), and solar (0.9%).

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