Feds Vastly Underestimated U.S. Clean Energy Growth, Says NRDC

Just how fast is the U.S. clean energy revolution unfolding? America’s 2016 solar energy capacity was 4,500% higher than government experts predicted 10 years earlier, and the nation’s wind supply was 350% above their forecast, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

NRDC says its fifth annual energy report, “America’s Clean Energy Revolution,” confirms the “massive shifts” in the nation’s energy landscape, dominated by clean energy progress.

According to the group, its report shows that the federal U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) did as follows back in 2006:

  • Misjudged the huge increases in solar power by forecasting less than 1 GW of installed solar by 2016, when the total ended up being 46 times that amount, and no more than 18 GW of wind power, when it actually reached 82 GW;
  • Overestimated the 2016 level of carbon-dioxide pollution, which, at 5.17 billion tons, was 25%, or 1.67 billion tons, lower than forecast;
  • Misread the rise of energy efficiency, which contributed to keeping U.S. energy consumption at 96.5 quads of energy, 17% below EIA’s projection of 115.6 quads; and
  • Did not anticipate the demise of coal-fired power, which dropped 45% from the projected level of 2,235 TWh to 1,240 TWh.

“Dozens of clean energy records have been shattered across the United States in the last year and a half,” says co-author Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of NRDC’s energy program. “And despite some new political headwinds, ever-improving economics will propel the clean energy transition in the years to come.”

For the first time since 1960, the report adds, the average U.S. household spent less than 4% of its income on all energy in 2016 – including gasoline and electricity spending – despite the much larger number of electronic gadgets and appliances we now use.

Furthermore, the report says renewable energy grew to 14% of total U.S. electricity sales in 2016, with wind and solar amounting to 8% and hydropower and geothermal accounting for the other 6%. More than 14 GW of solar capacity was added in 2016 – almost double the record-breaking new amount in 2015. And for the first time in U.S. history, wind and solar energy made up more than 10% of all monthly electricity generation.

The full report can be found here.

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