Renewables Supply 10 Percent of U.S. Energy

According to the most recent issue of the “Monthly Energy Review” by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), renewable energy (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.

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 which expanded by 28.46% during the first nine months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.

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%). Renewable energy’s (RE) contribution to the nation’s domestic energy production is now almost equal to nuclear power, which has been holding fairly steady in recent years at 11.6%.

“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.

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: 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: The most relevant charts are Tables 1.1 and 1.1.A

4 replies
  1. JV
    JV says:

    More interesting to plot the energy fraction against the subsidy costs and the scaling costs. (New infrastructure in power grid connections required to non-traditional energy generation regions like the sun belt)Assuming the biomass really means "corn alcohol" and the growth in wind and solar are new additions in the last year or two because of subsidies, it is also interesting to look at timelines for say the last 30 years vs. all costs.If you normalize out those two things – time & money hydro is the only functioning "renewable in the mix because its costs are already recovered and it is on the maintenance side of production expenses.Without a carbon tax (that is dead as a doornail) to fund continued renewable growth and infrastructure build out traditional bonds and other funding instruments have to be used – and those are tapped out for the foreseeable future.This report is simplistic and just PR because it avoids all the hard questions. The devil is in the details and local projects – not meaningless averages.Coal, nuclear, traditional hydro, natural gas, conservation, small wind and solar for a long time to come.

  2. Cleantuesday
    Cleantuesday says:

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  3. dust testing
    dust testing says:

    Co-firing coal and biomass fuels is a relatively simple way to 'go green'. In the UK, nearly all the power generators are exploring this route and the lab is seeing a great deal of interest in explosion testing the new fuels. Whether we can take it to the next level, where biomass makes up the majority of fuel feed, is another matter. It remains to be seen what the practical limits are for the different biomass substances.

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