As we enter the final month of the presidential election campaign, the political rhetoric remains heated. Among the many issues to be debated, renewable energies and the federal policies that support them will no doubt feature prominently.
Setting aside the merits or demerits of federal renewable-energy policies, such as production tax credits and stimulus funding, one thing cannot be debated: Renewables are on a tear.
If political rhetoric is all about putting a spin, positive or negative, on a particular story, then statistics are about setting the record straight. In this case, the numbers are compelling.
According to the latest issue of the Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly, nonhydro renewable electricity continued its rapid expansion over the national power landscape in the first half of this year. Collectively, it accounted for about 5.76 percent of the total net electricity generated nationwide. That represents a 10.9 percent increase in the total generation of renewables from the first six months of last year and a 36 percent increase from the first six months of 2010.
Because the nation’s overall production of electricity has also increased, the share that comes from renewables has increased but at a slower rate. In the first half of 2011, 5.09 percent of the nation’s electricity came from renewables, and in the first half of 2010, renewables accounted for only 4.17 percent.
Driving the growth of renewables in the first half of 2012 were the pillars of the industry, solar and wind power. Photovoltaics generation increased by a whopping 97 percent, and wind turbine generated electricity grew by about 16 percent. However, wind power holds the largest share of nonhydroelectric generation, with about 66.76 percent of the total.