Renewable Energy on the Rise, Fossil Fuels Declining

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported good news for renewable energy enthusiasts this week. Energy from renewable resources has increased significantly over the last year. It is now higher than energy produced from nuclear power.

The EIA’s “Monthly Energy Review” released on July 28 shows that energy from renewable resources for January 1 to April 30, 2009 was 6% higher than for the same period of time in 2008.

In April of this year, renewable resources accounted for approximately 11.1% of total U.S. energy production. At this level, renewable resources have now passed up nuclear power in energy production. Nuclear power accounted for approximately 10.4% of total energy production during that month.

The renewable energy breakdown for the period of time measured was as follows: hydropower (34.6%), wood + wood wastes (31.2%), biofuels (19.0%), wind (9.3%), geothermal (4.7%), and solar (1.2%). Compared to the same period last year, wind increased by 34.5%, biofuels by 14.1%, hydropower by 8.2%, and geothermal by 2.6%. Solar power contributions remained basically the same and wood + wood waste decreased by 4.9%.

Interestingly, this shows that renewable resources are providing more and more of the country’s energy, but it is not necessarily from the popular resources we might be thinking of. Solar power is still a very low contributor and has not changed much in the last year. Wind has increased by the greatest percentage, but it is still only the fourth highest contributor.

Total energy use for the first quarter of the year was 5.7% lower than for the same period last year, and nearly all of the decline was in the fossil fuels sector.

What are the lessons for Congress in this, as they look to pass the country’s first climate/energy bill? Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the “SUN DAY Campaign”, says: “As Congress continues to debate energy and climate legislation, it would do well to take note of the clear trends in the nation’s energy mix. Fossil fuel use is dropping sharply and nuclear power is barely holding on to its market share while month-after-month the mix of renewable energy sources continues to set ever-higher records.”

Of course, this is uplifting. However, does it compare to what other leading nations are doing? Businesses and governments from Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East are committed to creating a $560 billion solar project that will provide Europe with 20% of its energy by 2050. Are we going to keep up with these other nations and remain a world leader?

Data for this article come from Tables 1.1, 1.2, and 10.1 of the EIA’s “Monthly Energy Review” published on July 28, 2009.

The press release inspiring this article was received from Ken Bossong at the SUN DAY CAMPAIGN; 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite #340; Takoma Park, MD 20912; 301-270-6477 x.23; sun-day-campaign@hotmail.com

Image credit 1: wolfpix via flickr under a Creative Commons license


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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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15 thoughts on “Renewable Energy on the Rise, Fossil Fuels Declining

  • I believe that the era of fossil fuel dominance on this planet is slowly coming to an end. The U.S.’s renewable energy output may not be as high as other countries at the moment, but that will change once the current economic crisis comes to an end and more money is available. I’m confident that we’ll reach our goal of renewable capacity by the target date.

  • I believe that the era of fossil fuel dominance on this planet is slowly coming to an end. The U.S.’s renewable energy output may not be as high as other countries at the moment, but that will change once the current economic crisis comes to an end and more money is available. I’m confident that we’ll reach our goal of renewable capacity by the target date.

  • Interesting, does this mean that renewable energy sources are now a more mature industry than nuclear and thus do not require the mandated subsidies that are being proposed in the Waxman-Markey legislation. It would be nice to see a level playing field for all sustainable energy sources including nuclear.

    I feel Waxman-Markey bill’s provision to require utilities to insure that 30% of their power distribution will come from renewable sources will eventually lead to the use of more fossil fuels. The reason is that nuclear, though a sustainable form of energy, does not meet the Waxman-Markey definition of renewable. This combined with the unreliability of wind and solar to produce power during peak demand and the inefficiency of solar and wind on a cost per kilowatt basses will lead to more fossil fuel use. What is the country going to do if we fail to meet the Waxman-Markey lofty “renewable” goal? Turn off the lights. True it is a solution but who thinks the US is in a mood to cut back on jobs when we can just produce more power with the use of fossil fuels.

    You can not build a nuclear plant overnight you need at a minimum of at least seven years in the US to get a plant up and running. This is the time utilities need to start planning. Why not change the definition in Waxman-Markey to sustainable power and up the requirement from 30% to 60%. This way all carbon free producers are on a level playing field and the free market will decide which carbon free sources are more efficient at producing power. One needs to realize that in the end it is all about producing carbon free power.

    Viva the nuclear renaissance,

    Jfarmer9

  • Interesting, does this mean that renewable energy sources are now a more mature industry than nuclear and thus do not require the mandated subsidies that are being proposed in the Waxman-Markey legislation. It would be nice to see a level playing field for all sustainable energy sources including nuclear.

    I feel Waxman-Markey bill’s provision to require utilities to insure that 30% of their power distribution will come from renewable sources will eventually lead to the use of more fossil fuels. The reason is that nuclear, though a sustainable form of energy, does not meet the Waxman-Markey definition of renewable. This combined with the unreliability of wind and solar to produce power during peak demand and the inefficiency of solar and wind on a cost per kilowatt basses will lead to more fossil fuel use. What is the country going to do if we fail to meet the Waxman-Markey lofty “renewable” goal? Turn off the lights. True it is a solution but who thinks the US is in a mood to cut back on jobs when we can just produce more power with the use of fossil fuels.

    You can not build a nuclear plant overnight you need at a minimum of at least seven years in the US to get a plant up and running. This is the time utilities need to start planning. Why not change the definition in Waxman-Markey to sustainable power and up the requirement from 30% to 60%. This way all carbon free producers are on a level playing field and the free market will decide which carbon free sources are more efficient at producing power. One needs to realize that in the end it is all about producing carbon free power.

    Viva the nuclear renaissance,

    Jfarmer9

  • Last I heard, nuclear was barely capable of producing an energy profit, because so much fossil fuel goes into the unsustainable mining and refining processes required to produce fissionable material. Yay nuclear?

  • Last I heard, nuclear was barely capable of producing an energy profit, because so much fossil fuel goes into the unsustainable mining and refining processes required to produce fissionable material. Yay nuclear?

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