During the past decade, United States renewable electricity production has increased by a considerable 300%. Despite this impressively rapid growth, the European Union is still far ahead the US, as European countries (especially Germany) utilize renewable energy much more than the US or the rest of the world.
All in all, in 2011, the United States obtained 2.7% of it’s electricity from renewable sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and some other waste-to-energy power plants (not including hydroelectricity). That put it at #7 among G-20 countries.
Not All Policies Are Created Equally
In the midst of worldwide renewable energy sector growth, some government policies encouraged renewable energy growth much more effectively than others, such as Germany’s feed-in tariffs.
The United States has been pursuing renewable energy less aggressively than Germany has, and, in accordance with the saying “you reap what you sow,” Germany has far more effectively stimulated renewable energy growth.
To fully understand the importance of weighing an aggressive growth policy versus a milder one, it’s important to understand the purpose of encouraging renewable energy usage.
Due to the fact that global warming is a time bomb that requires urgent action, a mild growth policy that leaves the United States generating only 2.7% of power from renewable sources is not adequate. Every year that coal power plants dominate, they make a significant contribution to our growing global warming problem.
If global warming was not an issue, it could be pursued less aggressively. However, peak oil is a concern as well.
At the upcoming Rio+20 Earth summit in Brazil, renewable energy policy is expected to be a major issue.
Renewable Energy World Leaders
In May, cloudy Germany obtained 30% of it’s electricity from solar power plants. At the moment, some smaller non-G20 countries — such as Spain, New Zealand, Iceland, and Norway — get more than 15% of their electricity from renewable sources.
As you can see in the graphic above, the top 5 “countries” of the G20 for renewable electricity production are:
US Renewable Energy Challenges
Despite the success of U.S government policies to encourage (at least some) renewable energy growth, they are now under scrutiny by renewable energy opponents.
“Unfortunately, the very policies that have increased our renewable energy supplies and reduced our dependence on dirty fossil fuels are now under fire in the United States and elsewhere,” Jake Schmidt, NRDC’s International Climate Policy Director, comments. “That’s not just a threat to the thousands of new jobs being created by the renewable energy industry, but also a threat to our health, our environment and our planet.”
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