API Energy Report Says Solar Will Double In 2015-16

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Yes, you did hear that right. For the first time ever, speaking for the oil and gas industry, the American Petroleum Institute is including solar among the energy sources that should be taken seriously in the next couple of years.

API's 2015 energy report (api.org) API’s State of American Energy Report, released yesterday, includes a serious analysis of the U.S. solar energy industry. The API energy study highlights the explosive growth of solar and its significant effects on the nation’s economy and environment. Its bottom line: “Today, the U.S. has an estimated 20.2 GW of installed solar capacity, enough to effectively power nearly 4 million homes in the United States—or every single home in a state the size of Massachusetts or New Jersey—with another 20 GW in the pipeline for 2015-16.”

Solar comes up fourth in the report, predictably following most of the big spenders: petroleum, nuclear, and hydroelectric power. Geothermal comes after solar, then a special section on “Infrastructure—The Essential Link to a Secure Energy Future,” and subsequent discussions of natural gas, wind, coal, and biomass. The API energy report finishes up with a word about “Energy Efficiency | A Great American Success Story.”

The petroleum industry’s annual report summarizes the impact of solar power in this paragraph:

Yearly US solar installations and forecast (api.org)Solar energy is now more affordable than ever. According to SEIA/GTM Research, national blended average system prices have dropped 53 percent since 2010.  Today, the solar industry employs 143,000 Americans and pumps more than $15 billion a year into the U.S. economy.

Discussing the impact of solar energy on the environment, the API energy report praises the efforts of policymakers for instituting the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), Net Energy Metering (NEM), and Renewable Energy Standards (RES). “Solar helped to offset an estimated 20 million metric tons of harmful CO2 emissions in 2014, which is the equivalent of taking four million cars off U.S. highways…. When looking at America’s energy future, solar can be a real game changer, providing more and more homes, businesses, schools and government entities across the United States with clean, reliable and affordable electricity, while also helping states to meet proposed new obligations under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.”

Although he also did express support of the Keystone XL project at a recent news conference, API President and CEO Jack Gerard introduces the State of American Energy Report with these words:

The United States is in the midst of a new era in domestic energy abundance characterized by rising use of renewable energy and increased oil and natural gas production that is strengthening our economic outlook and enabling America to emerge as a global energy superpower. It’s a remarkable transformation that has been made possible because America is uniquely rich in energy resources, a talented workforce, and cutting-edge energy technologies.

Our colleague Roy Hales at theECOreport points out that Gerard’s message echoes the sentiment behind the DOE’s current $40 billion loan guarantee:

  • 10% is to go to renewable energy and energy efficiency projects,
  • 40% to advanced technology vehicle manufacturing,
  • 30% to advanced nuclear technology & upgrades to existing facilities, and
  • 20% to to “support innovative advanced fossil energy projects that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases.”

Counting solar-powered vehicles and power grid improvements, which fall under other technologies, the loan guarantee likely provides a share greater than 10% to sustainability.

Commenting on the API energy report, Rhone Resch, SEIA President and CEO, remarked, “It took the U.S. solar industry 40 years to install the first 20 GW of solar.  Now, we’re going to install the next 20 GW in the next two years.  In fact, during every single week of 2015, we’re going to install more capacity than what we did during the entire year in 2006….  Any way you look at it, solar energy is paying huge dividends for the economy, our environment, and America’s future.“

The API concurred in its summary, reinforcing the point that economic growth in the United States relies on the energy sector to ensure continuance of the valued American quality of life. Access the full petroleum energy trade organization report here.

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