Renewable Energy Generation in U.S. Could Hit 16% Sooner Than You Think!

2011

The SUN DAY Campaign releases a study challenging the assertion of the U.S. Energy Information Administration that renewable energy sources will provide 16% of U.S. electrical generation by 2040. According to the new study, that estimate is far too conservative.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has predicted that renewable energy sources will provide 16% of U.S. net electrical generation by the year 2040.

That may sound high, but some are saying it’s too low — and that would be good news.

 

In a new study released today, the nonprofit SUN DAY Campaign shows that it’s more likely the 16% level could be reached within five years. And the study reached that conclusion using previously published data from EIA itself.

 

The EIA prediction appeared in its “early release overview” of the “Annual Energy Outlook 2014” and considered biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind energy.

 

However, EIA’s own published data show that the percentage of the nation’s net electrical generation generated from renewable sources has expanded from less than 9% in 2004 to nearly 13% in 2013.

 

The SUN DAY campaign believes that when you account for the relatively consistent recent growth trends for most renewable energy sources, and their rapidly declining costs, it’s unlikely to take another 27 years for renewables to grow from 13% to 16%.

 

In fact, if the trends reflected in EIA data from the past decade continue, the SUN DAY campaign asserts, renewable energy sources could increase to as much as 13.5% of net U.S. electrical generation in 2014, 14.4% in 2015, 15.3% in 2016, and 16% or more in 2018. That’s within 5 years, much sooner than the 27 years forecast by EIA. Even in a conservative scenario, we’re likely looking at 16% by 2020.

 

Why do these predictions matter? They can affect decisions on a number of fronts.

 

“Inasmuch as policy makers in both the public and private sectors — as well as the media and others — rely heavily upon EIA data when making legislative, regulatory, investment, and other decisions, underestimation can have multiple adverse impacts on the renewable energy industry and, more broadly, on the nation’s environmental and energy future,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Consequently, EIA is doing a serious disservice to the public by publishing analyses that are inherently inconsistent with its own historical data and near-term projections.”  

 

The full report (Word version also attached below this post) includes the assumptions and projections made, as well as a listing of recent studies and news reports that offer alternative or complementary scenarios — many of which are more aggressive than those provided by the SUN DAY Campaign. These additional studies suggest that even SUN DAY’s analysis may prove to be unduly conservative. Time will tell.