Renewable energy provided 13% of U.S. electricity generation in 2013, up from 12% in 2012 and just 8% in 2007, according to a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). The report, produced for The Business Council for Sustainable Energy, covers renewables, energy efficiency and natural gas.
The report also says renewable energy costs reached all-time lows in 2013, allowing clean energy, with the aid of incentives, to be cheaper than fossil fuel electricity in some parts of the country. Small, distributed generators and off-grid installations, meanwhile, began to emerge as a transformative force in the power industry, the report adds.
Uncertain and chaotic energy policy in Washington was the biggest speed bump for clean energy in 2013, according to BNEF. For example, new wind power installations decreased dramatically last year due to the late extension of the wind production tax credit. Conversely, BNEF notes federal solar tax credits did not require renewal for 2013, which helped propel a dramatic 50% increase in cumulative solar installations.
"We urge legislators and policymakers to clarify and stabilize clean energy policies both at the federal and state levels in order to accelerate America's energy transformation," comments Lisa Jacobson, president of The Business Council for Sustainable Energy. "Clean energy technologies have made major gains in the last five years, and further growth will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve our energy security and strengthen the U.S. economy."
BNEF notes that renewable energy, energy efficiency and natural gas are mainly responsible for the nearly 10% decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, taking the country more than halfway to President Barack Obama's goal of achieving a 17% reduction in emissions by 2020.
"The changes unfolding in the U.S. energy industry have been profound and, by the typical time scale of the industry, abrupt," says Michel Di Capua, head of North American analysis for BNEF. "The effects of these changes will be felt in seemingly every nook and cranny of the American economy, from military bases to manufacturing plants, from homes to highways. 2013 saw some detours from the long-term trends, but overall, it is clear that the long-term transformation of how the U.S. produces and consumes energy continues."