With all the popular support and government subsidies that renewable power enjoys in the United States, it seems that it would only be a matter of time before they completely take over the nation’s energy markets. In fact, with all of the hype that has accompanied the trend, some might even be forgiven for thinking that they already have.
While renewables have not completely displaced traditional fuel sources, and probably never will, they are slowly and steadily chipping away at the market share that the latter has historically enjoyed. The growth rate for renewables in relative terms is nothing short of spectacular and is ensuring that a future heavily powered by renewables is not an overly optimistic idea.
Statistics released recently by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirms the trend. According to “Monthly Energy Review” and “Electric Power Monthly,” both released in late January, renewables showed strong growth and an increasing, if still fairly small, market share last year.
The reports show that renewable power accounted for nearly 12 percent of domestic energy production across all sectors for the 11-month period ending in November. While that may not be a huge share of the total, it represents a 14 percent increase from the same period in 2010 and a 22 percent jump from 2009.
Americans were also eager to consume the renewable power that was produced. According to the EIA reports, renewables accounted for about 9.3 percent of the total amount of energy used. Less than 1 percent of the total output from renewables was not consumed domestically and available for export.
Within the electricity sector, renewables accounted for about 4.7 percent of the net energy generated. That represented a 17.2 percent increase from 2010 and a 35 percent increase from the year before.
According to the EIA, renewables include biofuels, hydro, wind, geothermal and solar, in descending order of market share. Biofuels generated 48 percent of the total renewable power consumed by Americans last year, and hydropower generated 36 percent. Wind, geothermal and solar generated 12.4 percent, 2.4 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.
While not the biggest contributors by this comparison, wind and solar enjoyed some of the biggest rates of growth. Wind power grew by 28 percent, and solar grew by 6.6 percent.
In terms of its share of the total amount of energy produced, coal suffered a slight drop of 4.6 percent last year. However, it remains king, and renewables have a long way to go to dethrone it as the nation’s primary source of power, of which it produced a whopping 42 percent.