Analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds that roughly 18% of U.S. energy generation is supplied by renewable sources. The details can be found in the 2018 edition of the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, Bloomberg’s dive into the country’s energy mix and evaluation of how various renewable energy industries are faring.
Increases in wind, solar, and hydropower generation brought the overall renewable energy supply from 15% to 18% in just one year. The large jump can be attributed to the 2016 construction boom and new clean energy installations that year as well as the easing of drought conditions in the West, which boosted hydropower generation. Still, other big picture trends are driving the adoption of renewables: corporations are increasingly demanding clean energy, signing new deals for 2.9 gigawatts worth of offsite renewable capacity in 2017; U.S. clean energy investment remained stable at $57 billion, but was focused more on wind deployment and energy smart technologies; and there was a prevalence of climate-protecting and emissions-reducing commitments from sub-national and private sector actors.
Natural gas, coal, and nuclear remain the top three producers of U.S. electricity, but renewables appear poised to make a run at supplanting the traditional power sources. Natural gas and coal both fell slightly from 2016 to 2017, with natural gas generation dipping 2% and coal slipping 3%. Meanwhile, new developments are making renewable energy even more attractive. The price for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries fell 23% from 2016, making energy storage facilities more cost-effective and solar and wind projects more attractive because those projects do not have to be relied upon to be continuously producing electricity. At the same time, utilities are investing in infrastructure to improve grid operation, spending nearly $23 billion on electric transmission in 2017.
All of these changes and developments have tangible results: only 1.3% of U.S. consumer spending was on electricity last year, the lowest amount ever recorded; electricity sector emissions fell 4.2%; and new sales of battery, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles also grew. As renewable generation continues to expand and become a greater portion of the U.S. energy mix, we will continue to see impressive benefits for the clean energy industry, the climate, and consumers.