The U.S.' reliance on wind, solar and other renewable sources of energy has reached historic levels and is poised to make even greater gains in the near future, according to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
NRDC's third-annual energy report, ‘A Tectonic Shift in America's Energy Landscape,’ found that the energy sector emitted less dangerous carbon pollution last year than in 1996 and has shown a full 10% reduction over the past decade. Meanwhile, coal and electricity consumption are down nationwide, while oil use today is lower than it was in the early 1970s, the report shows.
Wind power in particular continues to dominate the nation's renewable energy growth – contributing roughly two-thirds of generation from renewable resources other than hydropower. Additionally, wind power production scored a 33-fold increase from 2000 to 2014.
Meanwhile, solar power doubled its output over the previous year (for the fourth year running) and, for the first time ever, eclipsed the annual generation of the nation's geothermal resources.
Sierra Martinez, report co-author and NRDC's California Energy Project legal director, says the data shows that the U.S. was relying on an unprecedented amount of renewable energy by the end of 2014.
‘The amount of renewable energy from wind turbines, solar panels and other technologies now equals roughly 10 percent of the nation's energy use,’ says Martinez. ‘That's like powering the world's largest economy for more than a month without using any pollution-spewing coal, oil or natural gas and without additional harm to our lands, waters and wildlife that is associated with extracting fossil fuels.’
The report cites two important U.S. advances this year in the global fight against climate change: the Obama administration's August release of the Clean Power Plan to limit power plant pollution and California's new climate legislation (S.B.350).
‘These developments, along with the good energy news noted in the report, offer hope for significant progress in the global climate negotiations scheduled for December in Paris,’ states Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the NRDC energy program.
NRDC's full report can be found here.