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Renewable Energy Rises to Over 10% of U.S. Energy Production & Electricity

Dec 28, 2009 - Energy Central

According to the most recent issue of the "Monthly Energy Review" by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy sources (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, wind) provided 10.51% of domestic U.S. energy production during the first nine months of 2009 – the latest time-frame for which data has been published. And according to EIA’s latest "Electric Power Monthly," renewable energy sources provided 10.21% of net U.S. electrical generation for the first nine months of 2009.

This continues the steady growth trend for renewable energy. Renewable energy sources accounted for 9.67% of domestic energy production during the first nine months of 2007. That increased to 10.12% for the first three-quarters of 2008.

Domestic energy production from renewable sources grew by 4.10% during the first nine months of 2009 compared to the first nine months of 2008 – an increase of 0.228 quadrillion Btu’s. Most of that growth came from wind and hydropower which expanded by 28.46% and 4.73% respectively during the first three-quarters of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. In addition, biomass (comprised of roughly 60% wood + wood waste and 40% biofuels) grew by 1.34%; the growth reflects a 10.96% increase in biofuels production. The contributions from solar and geothermal remained essentially unchanged. The mix of renewable energy sources consisted of hydropower (35.16%), biomass (30.72%), biofuels (20.25%), wind (8.17%), geothermal (4.52%), and solar (1.17%).

Moreover, renewable energy’s contribution to the nation’s domestic energy production is now almost equal to that provided by nuclear power, which has been holding fairly steady in recent years (11.59% for the first nine months of 2009, 11.57% for the first three-quarters of 2008, and 11.92% for the first three-quarters of 2007). In the first three-quarters of 2009, nuclear power increased by only 0.41% compared to the same period in 2008, while domestic fossil fuel production actually dropped by 0.30%.

“When Congress resumes its debate on pending energy and climate legislation in 2010, it would do well to take note of the clear trends in the nation’s changing energy mix,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Renewable energy has proven itself to be a solid investment - growing rapidly and nipping at the heels of the stagnant nuclear power industry - while fossil fuel use continues to drop.”

In the electricity sector, conventional hydropower accounted for 6.89% of U.S. net electrical generation during the first nine months of 2009 while other renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) accounted for 3.32% -- for a total of 10.21%. By comparison for the first three quarters of 2008, renewables accounted for 9.18% of net electrical generation (hydropower - 6.27%; non-hydro - 2.91%); and in the same period in 2007, renewables accounted for 8.72% of net U.S. electrical production (hydro - 6.28%; non-hydro - 2.44%).

While renewably-generated electricity has grown, overall net U.S. electrical generation was 4.72% lower for the first nine months of 2009 compared to the first half of 2008 with coal-generated electricity dropping by 12.86%.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration released the "Monthly Energy Review" on December 23, 2009. It can be found at: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/mer/contents.html. The relevant tables from which the data above are extrapolated are Tables 1.2 and 10.1. EIA released its most recent "Electric Power Monthly" on December 16, 2009; see: http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/epm_sum.html. The most relevant charts are Tables 1.1 and 1.1.A

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The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels.