Energy & Environment

US wind, solar tripled over the past decade: analysis

AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File
FILE – President Joe Biden drives a Cadillac Lyriq through the showroom during a tour at the Detroit Auto Show, Sept. 14, 2022, in Detroit. Biden, a self-described “car guy,” often promises to lead by example by moving swiftly to convert the sprawling federal fleet to zero-emission electric vehicles. But efforts to help meet his ambitious climate goals by eliminating gas-powered vehicles from the federal fleet have lagged.

The United States generated three times as much renewable electricity from the sun and wind last year in comparison to 2012, a new analysis has found. 

Seven states alone now produce enough electricity from these sources, as well as geothermal energy, to cover half of their consumption, according to an online energy dashboard made public on Thursday. 

Just five years earlier, none of these states — South Dakota, Iowa, North Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, Oklahoma and New Mexico — had achieved this level of renewable energy progress, the Renewables on the Rise 2022 dashboard showed.

“As clean energy sources produce more and more of our power, they set the stage for other technologies — like electric cars and heat pumps powered by renewable energy — to replace dirty and outdated ones,” said Johanna Neumann, a senior director at the Environment America Research and Policy Center, which released the dashboard with the Frontier Group.

“With renewables on the rise, we’re on our way to building a cleaner, healthier future,” Neumann added in her statement.

The newly released dashboard details progress over the past decade in six areas that the authors deemed essential to a clean energy transition: wind, solar, electric vehicles (EVs), charging infrastructure for EVs and battery storage. 

Among the dashboard’s key findings was evidence that the U.S. produced enough wind energy to power 35 million typical homes in 2021 — or 2.7 times as much wind energy as in 2012. 

The U.S. also generated enough solar energy that year to power 15 million homes — or 15 times as much solar energy as in 2012, according to the dashboard. 

As far as EVs are concerned, Americans purchased nearly 647,000 plug-in electric cars in 2021 – a nearly 13-fold increase from 2012.

The number of chargers to accompany those vehicles surpassed 120,000 nationwide — a nearly 20-fold increase from 2012.

Looking into the country’s total battery storage, the dashboard found that the country now has nearly 4.7 gigawatts of storage, or 32 times as much as in 2012. This surge in capacity, the authors explained, helps support the use of more renewable energy and keep the lights on during extreme weather events. 

Meanwhile, energy efficiency improvements installed in 2020 will save the country 368 terawatt-hours of power over their lifetimes — or enough to power 34 million homes each year, according to the dashboard.  

California, Texas and Florida exhibited the most growth in solar power and battery storage from 2012 to 2021, while Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa ranked highest for wind power growth, the dashboard showed.

Michigan, Illinois and Massachusetts showed the most improvement in savings from electric energy efficiency programs from 2013 to 2020, the analysis found.  

California, Florida and New York achieved the top ranks for both EV sales in 2021 and the growth of public charging ports since 2012. 

“When states prioritize building clean energy, their residents see lower energy bills, a more resilient electric grid, and healthier communities, which inspires neighbors — and our whole nation — to pick up the pace,” Sonia Aggarwal, special assistant to the president for climate policy and innovation, said in a statement. 

The report’s authors credited the Biden administration’s recently approved Inflation Reduction Act with the ability “to turbocharge clean energy’s growth,” in a press release accompanying the dashboard. 

The legislation, the authors explained, will bring consumer tax credits and discounts on a variety of energy-saving products, from EVs to heat pump HVAC systems. 

“The keys to a future powered by 100% percent renewable energy are within reach,” Neumann said in a statement. “Now is the time for states to grab the wheel and build out renewable energy; modernize the grid; reduce and manage energy use; and repower our economy to take full advantage of clean energy’s benefits.”

Tags Electric vehicles Energy efficiency Environment America Research & Policy Center Frontier Group Johanna Neumann Renewable energy Renewables on the Rise Sonia Aggarwall
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