Published on October 19th, 2014 | by Roy L Hales


America Can Nearly Quadruple Its Renewable Electricity By 2030

October 19th, 2014 by  

Originally Published in the ECOreport.

A recent Union of Concerned Scientists (USC) study found that America can nearly quadruple its renewable electricity in the next 15 years, reaching 23% by 2030. This comes in response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal that America set a modest goal of 12% renewable energy by 2030. Rachel Cleetus, Senior Climate Economist of UCS, referred to the EPA’s goal as just a fraction above “business as usual.” The UCS found raising this target, to +23% of the nation’s electricity from non-hydro renewable sources by 2030, would cost the average household only about 18 cents per month. Cleetus described this as a realistic and affordable goal: “Looking at the way renewable energy is ramping up and costs are falling dramatically, there is a real opportunity to go farther.”


Seven states are already exceeding their proposed goals set by EPA for 2030 and another 17 have existing laws that require more renewable electricity than what the EPA requires. Nine states already report electricity from wind and/or solar in two figures. Iowa and South Dakota are at the top of this list, having both achieved 24%. Oregon has also joined this group, with 10%.

UCS started by using what states have accomplished during the past five years as a benchmark. They found that the national average annual growth rate in renewables has been 1% over the period 2009-2013. The UCS study assumes that, by 2020, every US state will at least meet the national benchmark of 1%. Some leading states that are already at or above that level would continue to grow at their current rate, subject to maximum growth rate of 1.5% a year.


Their plan has lower proposed targets than the EPA for four states. Unlike the EPA approach, which used regionally averaged targets from state Renewable Electricity Standards (RES), the UCS used a more ambitious state-by-state approach based on demonstrated experience. The lower UCS targets arose in states like New Hampshire, which is in a region with high RES targets and therefore has a comparatively high EPA target. The UCS approach would also reduce power sector CO2 emissions by an additional 10 percent by 2030 above EPA’s draft plan, bringing them 40% below 2005 levels.

“I know that there are other groups working on strengthening other provisions of the Clean Power Plan, for example increasing the level of energy efficiency, so it may be possible to reduce emissions even more,” Cleetus said.



“Wall Street articles from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Goldman Sachs are predicting renewable energy, particularly solar, is where the growth is going to be, it’s no longer simply about competition between coal and natural gas,” said Cleetus. “Never mind the environmental considerations, which are very important, just from a market perspective we are probably going to see a very rapid scale up in renewables. The question is, will it happen fast enough and at the scale that we need it to from a climate perspective.”


Though the market is already going into renewables, America needs policies that push this growth as quickly as possible.

Setting serious emission reduction goals, especially if the Clean Power Plan is strengthened, sets up a positive dynamic. If the US takes emissions reductions seriously, it encourages other countries to do the same.

The EPA’s proposal has prompted serious discussions.

“The Clean Power Plan is a significant first step,” said Cleetus. “Thus far, individual states like the RGGI states and California have been taking the leadership role, but we need to do more on a National level. This includes Congress taking action on climate and energy policy.”


“We don’t have a lot of time. The window of opportunity to keep global warming below 2 degrees is rapidly closing,” said Cleetus. There needs to be a greater level of ambition, not just from the US but worldwide, if we are to sharply limit our emissions and slow the pace of climate change.”

A recent study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that using technologies commercially available today, the US could obtain 80% its electricity from renewable sources by 2050. Most of that energy would come from variable energy sources like wind and solar. To get there, America needs to make smart investments and policy decisions that will move the country toward a cleaner energy future.


 Source: ECOreport. Reprinted with permission.

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About the Author

is the President of Cortes Community Radio , CKTZ 89.5 FM, where he has hosted a half hour program since 2014, and editor of the the ECOreport, a website dedicated to exploring how our lifestyle choices and technologies affect the West Coast of North America. He writes for both writes for both Clean Technica and PlanetSave on Important Media. He is a research junkie who has written over 1,600 since he was first published in 1982. Roy lives on Cortes Island, BC, Canada.

  • dcard88

    If there are no more major improvements to panels, then this prediction is about right. How is it in any way likely that there will not be major improvements by 2020 (or 2022 at the latest), which would make this prediction absurd?

  • klarth1234 .

    I support renewable energy however this post is simply wrong. 0.17c for 15 years is only 3.6 billion. You’d need more invested that 3.6 billion to quadruple the status quo.

    Just saying.

  • TheRequimen

    $0.18 a month huh? So, roughly 117,538,000 (households) * 0.18 (dollars) * 12 (months) * 15 (years) = $3,808,231,200. $4 billion, roughly. Sound a little too good to be true? That’s because it is.

    .18 (dollars) MORE PER KILOWATT HOUR. So, here is the proper math.

    903 kWh (avg. month) * 0.18 (dollars) * 117,538,000 (households) * 12 (months) * 15 (years) = $3,438,832,773,600. $3.4 trillion. Still not too bad, but this is highly optimistic, so you need to triple this figure to get closer to the mark.

    That’s on top of your current electricity bill. So, if you used the average rate of electricity usage, your bill would go up $163 a month, to about $280. Before tax.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “The UCS found raising this target, to +23% of the nation’s electricity from non-hydro renewable sources by 2030, would cost the average household only about 18 cents per month”

      I think you’re missing some information. In places where the most renewable generation has been installed the price of electricity has fallen.

      In the US states that get at least 7% of their electricity from wind the price of electricity has fallen slightly while the price has risen for all other states.

      In Germany the wholesale price of electricity has fallen as renewables have been added to their grid.

      And that doesn’t even include the billions we’ll save by getting coal pollution out of our lungs. Few people understand how much of our tax money and health insurance premium money goes to treat coal-caused diseases.

  • Joseph Dubeau

    These projections seem to be very low. California will hit 33% in four years.
    In 15 years we will be over 70% renewable with millions EV on the road.

  • Gus Villageliu

    If we could keep discussion of renewable energy away from global warming cult cant we could all quickly agree on beneficial priorities for America’s energy future. But when coupled with alarmist cries of environmental disasters if we don’t adopt the Luddite prescriptions of rent seeking Al Gore and his crony capitalist friends, national consensus will inevitably falter.

    The fact is, the foreseeable future requires a mix of traditional energy sources with renewals to keep the World’s economy moving forward. Efficient global panels complemented with abundant natural gas for when the sun does not sufficiently shine or the wind is too calm for generating sufficient power are natural allies, not enemies,

    Only such a realistic mix can draw cooperation from China, India and the rest of the Third World that accurately perceive Western elitists cries for “climate justice” for what they are. The same old, same old, keeping their peoples poor and underdeveloped.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “If we could keep discussion of renewable energy away from global warming cult”

      You are suggesting we ignore science and do what, read cat entrails or turn tarot cards?

      We will continue to use fossil fuels going forward. We’ll use coal until we’ve got enough renewable generation to shut all the coal plants down. (Efficiency is helping by cutting demand.)

      We will continue to use natural gas to fill in around wind and solar until we’ve replaced NG with storage and other dispatchable generation.

      If you’ll look around you’ll find developing countries such as China and India now installing large amounts of renewable energy. They understand both the economic and environmental benefits.

    • dcard88

      If by “cult” you mean the 60+% of the US population and 80% of the rest of the world that is aware of the facts as presented by over 99% of climate scientist, then yes we are a cult.

      • That is pretty much the definition of a cult, right? 😀

  • wally12

    This article is a joke. One there is no way that the average cost to a family will be 18 cents per month. That is a real fairy tale. Second, the installation of new transmission lines are expensive. If they are for the purpose of distributing green energies, then those costs must be added to the costs of green energies. Third, this article assumes that inexpensive battery power will be a reality and that those costs will be minimal. The green energy system must pay for those technologies and costs. Forth, the cost of gas back up will go up since it is a standby source which means it is more expensive than continuous duty systems. However, if this article makes you feel good, by all means be happy in your dreams.

  • Steve Clark

    is thermo left off the list for a reason? is it that reminding people our continents are sliding around the top a molten mass, vented through the crust by volcanoes, both on land and under the ocean, a distraction from our SUVs?

  • Rory Conrad

    none of this matters in a globalized capitalist monetary system- the current monetary system insures ecological break down, as we are seeing now, at an unsustainable rate where even the most radical transformations are in vein. Not to be the monday debby downer, but human extinction was inherent from the onset of this planet’s 6th gen. of species-we have already laid all the work for our extinction as the planet has been showing us for decades and it’s effects are irreversible; articles like this panders to the unknowing population whom holds onto hope to prevent complete societal break down into anarchy.

    • Bob_Wallace


    • dcard88

      At least we know how to use “whom” correctly

  • Max Stacks

    Money is a proxy for resources. 18 cents more expensive means, broadly speaking, 18 cents more resources. Just different resources. Stop begging and make renewables more efficient if you want to sell renewables.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You are overlooking efficiency. Inefficiency eats money and with increasing scales of manufacturing efficiencies generally increase.

      There are almost as many resources in today’s solar panels which cost about $0.50/watt to manufacture as there were in the solar panels of 30 years ago which cost $100/watt.

      • Max Stacks

        Solar panels also have to be shipped, installed, maintained, and backed up with batteries or other power generation. Large scale solar thermal can be cheaper, but the total lifetime cost is still 2-3x that of fossil fuels. Once it’s even reasonably close to competitive, there will be no need for propaganda infographics.

        • Bob_Wallace

          New solar is more expensive than paid off coal.

          If you ignore the external costs of coal, which make paid off coal much more expensive than new solar.

          New solar is very much less expensive than new coal.

          New solar is now approaching the price of new CCNG. And will have none of the price volatility of gas.

          We don’t just pile up fossil fuels and set them on fire to make electricity. It takes very expensive plants and those plants have to be paid for as part of the cost of electricity.

          • Kim jones

            Solar pays for itself in 10 to 15 years, and after that, all energy is free on the property. Can’t say that w/coal, gas, or oil. The maintenance can be handled by same people that deliver the nasty stuff, and the tech expertise, can keep them with a fair wage. You have to be able to go over every connection point, and keep panels clean. Windshield wiper system would be nice to be added.of vinegar and water to clean the panels. This will not pollute the planet as flushing oil down the drains or cars that pump pollutants on the highways to runoff in the city sewers and pump stations. Clean electric truly is better lifestyle for our children. Surely we can hook a few circuits to the necessities of life, and ease the tax payer’s pocket expenses on home ownership. And..the homes will sell faster if they know there’s back-up generator of renewables in the event of a storms.
            Sometimes I think the caveman was smarter than Wall Street realtors. They at least had caves that came with their “own” energy source, not some city facility you pay FOREVER..

        • Kim jones

          Now I know people may be “used to the old way of energy generation” but is is more destructive and inefficient. Solar and wind are endless, and can be harnessed. Another valuable company or energy regeneration could be the waste water regeneration through solar powered steam engines and dont have to use clean water to do so, just remove solids and treat the water for stink. The heated temperatures destroy the rest. There is also a need for “solid waste dehydration units” that can burn solids in a aluminum foil bottom and be recycled in concrete, recycled plastic mix for reinforced walls and floors. It will be powder or dust, right? Think outside the box, no need to have flushing toilets, if solid waste burn sites are installed, and the solids dehydrated with heat to remove moisture, stench and bacteria or virus. India needs a dry toilet system or either a water capture system so they can stop stooling and bathing and drinking the same water. Let’s do this.

  • Peter Marcus

    Blatant lies.

  • CheezDiddle

    Awhhh, did everyone forget about Vermont again? 50 stars 50 states!

  • SomeGuy

    Don’t worry! Lobbyists for old time industry will have this estimate doubled by the time I finish writing this comment. Expect less than no action to be taken towards these goals until the cost of traditional energy is too expensive. America is owned by corporate interests.

  • Justen

    How AZ does not have way more renewable energy is ridiculous. I relocated here and am an architect…and it just blows my mind that they haven’t done more in this state. It is sunny year round!

    • GCO

      Yes, and I bet that a large fraction of the electricity used there is for air conditioning. This just screams for solar.

      • Steve Grinwis


    • Kazrath ThatsMe

      Its a republican state.. what do you expect? They spend their whole campaigns making fun of solar, wind etc…. of course a hard-nose bootstrap state like AZ is not going to do anything in their best interest.

  • Such a low target is silly linear thinking. Exponential growth in solar and storage technologies is likely to get us close to 100% renewables by the mid 2030s. Although wait….with a doubling every 2 years as we are seeing now, 23% by 2030 might not be so far off: 2030 = 23%, 2032 = 46%, 2034 = 92%, 2035 = >100%.

    • Baseball11626

      You think we are going to increase from 23% use to 100% renewable use in 5 years? There’s optimism, and then there is just being naive. You’ve reached the latter.

      • sintheticreality2

        You’re thinking linearly.

        • Bob_Wallace

          There are real world constraints that slow rates of increase after the initial very fast growth periods.

          Were we to put on a WWII type push to make our energy sources renewable it would still take a couple decades of operating at that accelerated pace to reach 100%.

        • Baseball11626

          I’m thinking rationally. Exponential growth works in technological info, not structure. If it did, your internet would run 10 Gbps by now instead of the laughable average of about 5 Mbps that most people get.

          • sintheticreality2

            The US really sucks when it comes to Internet speeds. The South Koreans are getting gigabit service now. 1GB transfers in less than a second. I’m happy to watch a 1080p video on YouTube without it constantly stopping to load.

      • Not 5 years, 6. Does that put me back in the optimist column 🙂

  • Ian Brodrick

    There’s no money to make, its in America, these two facts lead me to believe it is very unlikely, I’m afraid.

  • JamesWimberley

    One niggle with the infograhic: UCS illustrate new transmission with stylised traditional lattice pylons. These eyesores are being replaced in France with visually far superior designs in tubular steel.

  • Matt

    EPA plans for 22% renewable in 2020 than if no action is taken (EAU). Can we make the goals a little lower. Sounds like they made a visit down under to determine what is possible.

  • patb2009

    i think it will happen very fast

    • Real Texas Engineer

      18 cents. Wow it must be nice to live somewhere that receives $1,60 back on its federal taxes and can survive without air conditioning. You’re loving a 33% increase in constant dollar electricity cost. In Texas we see a 50% increase for half the year to a conservative 3 to $500 per month bill keeping the thermostat at a true 78 degrees with all of the bells and whistles.
      If you ever bothered to read anything other than Green Peace fluff you’d know that the US is one of the lower CO2 producers vs productivity (ever hear of CHINA?).
      Truth is that THE SUN (the yellow thing in the sky you see during the day) is the major cause of global warming – it is on the growth side of a long term cycle (reference – sunspots vs sun diameter – source ARRL/ NASA) but it is more fun to make happy news and get the unwashed excited enough to do stupid stuff and tax those same unwashed to give the politicos more money to filter to their friends than to research the reality of what is really causing global warming.

      • Joseph Dubeau

        “Real Texas Engineer” does that train of your burn coal?

        • John

          IMHO… the “Infinite” energy has its own issues with dangerous by products… but I agree its better than what we do now.

      • Real Wisconsin Cheese Engineer

        Your post is barely coherent!
        As if RENEWABLE energy isn’t superior to FINITE sources that cause serious POLLUTION and destruction!!! oh a texan, big surprise there!

        Let’s see: Nukes cause pollution/waste in the MILLIONS of tons annually, that is extremely dangerous FOR EVER.(in every single person’s lifetime that is alive now and for the next several thousand years…)
        Coal: Finite, destructive, dangerous by products, thousands die per year mining it…
        Gas/Fracking: Finite, destructive, dangerous by products, dangerous production, pumping the ground with diesel and other f’d up chemicals, that goes into our WATER. Also is dislodging radioactive isotopes in the mantle.

        or we could have SAFE, “renewable”(its more like INFINITE) energy that doesn’t involve finite fuels to burn, that are dangerous to produce, nor toxic to us directly (like frac, nuke, coal).

        yes the sun affects the temp. on Earth. So does billions of fires everyday releasing copious amounts of gasses into the atmosphere!

        • APEppink

          I admire your enthusiasm but I wish you knew what you’re talking about.

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