Renewable Energy Powers More U.S. Electricity Than You Think


A main complaint against renewable energy is its small scale. Critics claim that it makes up too small a piece of the U.S. energy pie to matter. And therefore, in a chicken-and-egg argument, renewable energy is undeserving of subsidies and tax credits to help the new industry get up and running. A recent Wall Street Journal article looks deeper into the numbers, and comes to a surprising conclusion: renewable energy provides more power to the American grid than you might think.

When added up, all renewable sources—solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydroelectric power—combined for 12 percent of all U.S. electricity production last year. That figure has risen to 14 percent so far this year. It’s important to measure that 14 percent against the scale of our system, the second-largest electricity system in the world, accounting for 20 percent of the entire world’s electrical generation capacity.

So comparatively, U.S. wind power’s five percent share of electrical generation is a big slice. The 60 gigawatts of wind power currently installed in the U.S. is more electricity generation capacity than the whole of Australia or Mexico, and half as much power as is generated overall in France or Brazil. The misleadingly total low share of power produced by renewable energy also doesn’t account for the fact that some states have a lot of green power and some, almost none.

Texas has the biggest electricity system in the country and gets 11 percent from renewables, nearly all from wind. New York and Georgia have large power sectors, but get relatively small amounts from renewables. Looking more deeply into the details of a complex energy picture reveals a more progressive outlook than the conventional wisdom.

Article by John Howell, appearing courtesy 3BL Media.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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