In the last decade, clean energy in the U.S. has grown by leaps and bounds. Technologies that were once novelties – solar panels, wind turbines, LED light bulbs and electric cars – have become everyday parts of America’s energy landscape.
According to a new report by Environment America Research and Policy Center, the U.S. generates nearly eight times as much electricity from the sun and the wind than it did in 2007 – enough to power more than 25 million homes – and the average American uses 10% less energy than he or she did 10 years ago.
The report also cites a 20-fold increase in battery storage of electricity and the meteoric rise in sales of electric cars – from virtually none in 2007 to nearly 160,000 last year – as evidence that a clean energy revolution is under way across the U.S., according to Environment America.
“Despite anti-science, anti-clean energy rhetoric coming from the Trump Administration and many in Congress, the science is clear – fossil fuels pollute our air, water and land, threatening our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” comments Rob Sargent, energy program director for Environment America Research and Policy Center. “The good news is that the progress we’ve made in the last decade on renewable energy, energy savings and technologies such as battery storage and electric cars should give us the confidence that renewable energy can be America’s energy choice.”
The new report, which was co-authored by Frontier Group, analyzes the growth of key technologies needed to power the nation with clean, renewable energy, including wind, solar, energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles. Beyond a national assessment, the report provides state-by-state rankings on how effectively each state is adopting these technologies.
“Key clean energy technologies are improving rapidly and getting cheaper seemingly every day,” says Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group. “These and other advances open up new opportunities to end our dependence on fossil fuels and embrace a future built on clean, renewable energy.”
The report says solar and wind energy have grown exponentially over the past decade. In 2007, solar rooftops and utility-scale power plants produced 0.03% of America’s electricity, or enough electricity to power 120,000 average American homes. By the end of 2016, according to the report, solar power generated enough electricity to power 5 million average American homes, a 44% increase over the previous year.
The report says that by the end of 2007, America had built up a modest capacity for generating electricity from the wind, producing 0.8% of the nation’s electricity, enough to power more than 3 million homes. By 2016, wind turbines produced 5.5% of America’s power, enough to power 21 million homes, the report adds. In addition, the report notes 2016 also saw the installation of the 50,000th wind turbine in the U.S., as well as the launch of the nation’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm, off the coast of Block Island, R.I.
Meanwhile, the report says U.S. energy consumption has dropped by 3.6% since 2007, despite a growing population and economy. Between 1950 and 2007, total energy use in the U.S. had nearly tripled.
The report describes the factors that have contributed to the rapid growth in each clean energy category, including improved technologies and plummeting costs. Citing a survey by the U.S. Department of Energy, the report says that between 2008 to 2015, the cost of land-based wind energy fell by 41%; the cost of on-site and rooftop solar PV by 54%; the cost of utility-scale PV by 64%; the cost of home energy storage batteries by 73%; and the cost of LED light bulbs fell by 94%.
“Every day, we see more evidence that an economy powered by renewable energy is within our reach,” says Sargent.
Environment America says the report comes as a growing number of U.S. cities, states, corporations and institutions consider commitments to 100% renewable energy. Currently, nearly 40 U.S. cities have officially committed to that goal. Nearly 100 major companies, including Apple, Walmart and LEGO have as well. Hawaii is committed to 100% renewable electricity by 2045. California and Massachusetts are currently considering similar legislation. And in Congress, bills to commit the nation to 100% renewable energy have been introduced in both houses.
“Given the environmental benefits, clean, renewable energy should be the go-to option for businesses, utilities, governments and households across the country,” says Sargent. “It won’t be easy. But we have no choice. Every day, the urgency of our environmental challenges becomes clearer. That’s why we’re ready to work to move America to a future powered with clean, renewable energy.”
The full report, titled “Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future,” is available here.