Renewable Energy Sees Explosive Growth in 2011

According to the most recent issue of the Monthly Energy Review by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with data through September 30, 2011, renewable energy sources continue to expand rapidly while substantially outpacing the growth rates of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

For the first nine months of 2011, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass/biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, wind) provided 11.95 percent of domestic U.S. energy production. That compares to 10.85 percent for the same period in 2010 and 10.33 percent in 2009. By comparison, nuclear power provided just 10.62 percent of the nation's energy production in the first three quarters of 2011 -- i.e., 11.10 percent less than renewables.

Looking at all energy sectors (e.g., electricity, transportation, thermal), renewable energy output, including hydropower, grew by 14.44 percent in 2011 compared to 2010. Among the renewable energy sources, conventional hydropower provided 4.35 percent of domestic energy production during the first nine months of 2011, followed by biomass (3.15 percent), biofuels (2.57 percent), wind (1.45 percent), geothermal (0.29 percent) and solar (0.15 percent).

(On the consumption side, which includes oil and other energy imports, renewable sources accounted for 9.35 percent of total U.S. energy use during the first nine months of 2011.)

Looking at just the electricity sector, according to the latest issue of EIA’s Electric Power Monthly, with data through September 30, 2011, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, water wind) provided 12.73 percent of net U.S. electrical generation. This represents an increase of 24.73 percent compared to the same nine-month period in 2010. By comparison, electrical generation from coal dropped by 4.2 percent while nuclear output declined by 2.8 percent. Natural gas electrical generation rose by 1.6 percent.

Conventional hydropower accounted for 8.21 percent of net electrical generation during the first nine months of 2011 -- an increase of 29.6 percent compared to 2010. Non-hydro renewables accounted for 4.52 percent of net electrical generation (wind - 2.73 percent, biomass - 1.34 percent, geothermal - 0.40 percent, solar - 0.05 percent). Compared to the first three quarters of 2010, solar-generated electricity expanded in 2011 by 46.5 percent; wind by 27.1 percent, geothermal by 9.4 percent, and biomass by 1.3 percent.

“Notwithstanding the recession of the past three years, renewable energy sources have experienced explosive rates of growth that other industries can only envy,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “The investments in sustainable energy made by the federal government as well as state and private funders have paid off handsomely underscoring the short-sightedness of emerging proposals to cut back on or discontinue such support.”

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