The US nearly doubled its renewables capacity in the last four years, according to a new report.
The Sustainable Energy in America 2013 Factbook reports that U.S. renewable energy capacity (excluding hydropower ) increased from 44GW in 2008 to 86GW in 2012.
And total renewable energy consumption - from wind, solar, biomass and hydropower - jumped from 6.4% in 2007 to 9.4% in 2012.
Total US installed capacity of renewables plus natural gas now stands at 629GW (58% of the total power generating mix) – up from 605GW (56%) in 2011 and 548GW (54%) in 2007.
The report highlights that, partly thanks to this increase in natural gas and renewables, carbon emissions from the energy sector in the USA fell to their lowest levels since 1994 last year, dropping by 13% between 2007 and 2012.
Four reasons cited for the decrease in carbon emissions:
- More fuel-efficient vehicles
Hybrids, plug-in electrics, and natural gas vehicles are growing in prominence; sales for the first two reached 488,000 vehicles in 2012 (3.25% of US passenger vehicle sales). And natural gas use in the transport sector in the US increased by 26% from 2008 to 2011.
- More energy-efficient buildings
Since 1980, energy intensity of commercial buildings has decreased by over 40%, propelled by increasingly sophisticated approaches to financing for energy efficiency retrofits, as well as by standards, such as those that apply to heating and cooling units and to thermal performance.
- New investment
Estimated total new investment in US clean energy was $44.2bn in 2012. This amount, which includes investments in most renewable and energy efficiency technologies but excludes natural gas, is well above the $10.4bn figure from 2004. However, it marks a 32% decline from 2011, largely due to uncertainty over the fate of certain federal incentives that support financing for renewables.
- Reduced costs of electricity for renewable technologies
The cost of electricity generated by average large solar power plants has fallen from $0.31 per kilowatt-hour in 2009 to $0.14 per kilowatt-hour in 2012, while the cost of power from a typical large wind farm has fallen from $0.09 in 2009 to $0.08 per kilowatt-hour.