While the attacks continue on government policies that provide the incentives for renewable energy development, the recently released March issue of the DOE Energy Information Administration’s Monthly Energy Review shows that the nation is continuing to rely even more on a sustainable energy sector that needs the support of policy makers.
Offering data through December 31, 2012, the EIA report shows renewable energy sources expanded rapidly over the past four years, while coal, nuclear power and oil imports all declined significantly. Also dropping steeply were energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Natural gas rose considerably.
When compared to data reported in 2008, domestic production from renewable energy sources, which include biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind, grew by 23.5 percent. The wind energy and solar power sectors more than doubled their output over the four years.
That compares to an 8.2-percent increase in total energy produced domestically from all sources, led by natural gas (18.7 percent) and crude oil (29.5 percent). Over the same period, nuclear power output declined by 4.5 percent and U.S. coal production fell by more than 13 percent.
An emphasis on efficiency contributed to a decline in total energy use by just more than 4 percent. Petroleum consumption decreased by nearly 7 percent, carbon dioxide emissions fell by 9.4 percent and of particular significance, crude oil and petroleum product imports dropped by well more than 17 percent.
The really encouraging numbers from EIA for renewable energy stakeholders and advocates are those showing that 11.2 percent of all domestic energy production last year, including that generated for electricity, transportation and thermal uses came from renewable resources. In fact, the EIA report shows that even though nuclear power generates a larger share of the nation’s electricity (19 percent compared to 12.2 percent), renewables provided some 10.5 percent more power than nuclear energy last year.
When looking at total U.S. energy consumption – including oil and other energy imports – renewable energy made up 9.3 percent of domestic energy use. That compares to 7.2 percent four years ago.
Breaking the numbers down even further provides even greater evidence of the value of policies that promote the development of renewable technologies that provide viable sources of U.S. energy. From 2008 through 2012, hydropower production grew by 7 percent, geothermal by 18.2 percent, biofuels by 41 percent, solar by almost 140 percent and wind by nearly 150 percent.
On the consumption side, hydropower made up 30 percent of all U.S. renewable energy used in 2012, with biomass (27.6 percent), biofuels (22 percent), wind (15 percent), geothermal (2.6 percent), and solar (2.4 percent) accounting for the balance.
The EIA points out that the numbers may not fully show the total contribution from renewable energy sources because the agency does not totally account for distributed applications, like home-installed solar panels or wind turbines that are not connected to the grid.
The EIA numbers show the renewable energy sector is a viable one that boosts our economy by creating jobs, enhances our national energy security by helping sharply reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and improves our environment by reducing emissions. The EIA data is evidence that funding mechanisms, incentives and policies going back to the George W. Bush administration are working to build a valuable and sustainable energy future.
Photo courtesy of David Falconer.