Renewables Grew to 15.5% of US Electricity Capacity in 2014

A report published by NREL found that more than half of energy capacity added in the US in 2014 was renewable

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Renewables Grew to 15.5% of US Electricity Capacity in 2014
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Renewable electricity capacity reached 15.5% of the total installed electricity capacity in the US by the end of 2014, according to a report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Installed capacity exceeded 179 gigawatts, generated 554 terawatt-hours.

NREL produced the 2014 Renewable Energy Data Book to "provide useful insights for policymakers, analysts, and investors," NREL Energy Analyst Philipp Beiter said in a statement.

The NREL team found that hydropower made up the vast majority of renewable electricity generation in 2014, followed by wind.

Although solar generation still made up a small mix of the renewables, at 6%, it accounted for 22% of total electricity capacity added in 2014.

Solar was one of the fastest-growing renewables during 2014, with California setting a record for solar power generation in March 2014 and nearly doubling its solar production in less than one year.

Renewables as a whole made up more than half of total electricity capacity added in 2014, with natural gas accounting for 47% of addition, and coal 1%.

Since 2004, renewable electricity capacity has grown 83%, from 98 GW to more than 179 GW in 2014. Even when hydropower is not included, renewable electricity generation has more than doubled since 2004.

With states implementing targets for renewables, such as California's goal of hitting 50% renewable electricity by 2030 and Hawaii's goal of 100%, as well global negotiations around climate change taking place this month Paris, renewables are likely to continue to grow.

In fact, according to the NREL report, investments in renewables grew in 2014 after two years of decline. In the US, investment in clean energy grew 11% to $40.8 billion in 2014, with wind and solar the biggest beneficiaries of those investments.

Of course there are still a number of factors pushing back on renewables' growth. The price of oil is falling and is predicted to stay low through 2016, utilities have started pushing back against the proliferation of rooftop solar by proposing transmission usage fees on customers, and of course the US's future political environment is uncertain.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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