Non-hydro renewable electricity generation has nearly doubled since President Obama took office, reaching 5.75 percent of net electricity, according to figures from the Energy Information Administration.
In 2008, before Obama entered the White House, non-hydro resources like solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass represented just over 3 percent of generation. Today, they total nearly 6 percent.
Ken Bossong of the Sun Day Campaign has been meticulously following EIA generation figures over the years. In his assessment of the figures below, Bossong offers an historical perspective:
During 2008, the last full year of the Bush Administration, non-hydro renewables accounted for 3.06% of net electrical generation with an average monthly output of 10,508 gigawatthours. By mid-2012, the average monthly electrical generation from non-hydro renewables had grown by 78.70% to 18,777 gigawatthours. Comparing monthly electrical output in 2008 versus 2012, solar has expanded by 285.19%, wind by 171.72%, and geothermal by 13.53%. However, electrical generation from biomass dropped by 0.56%.
According to the latest issue of the monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” published by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects with data for the first half of 2012, 229 renewable energy projects accounted for more than 38% of new electrical generation capacity (not to be confused with actual generation). This includes 50 wind energy projects (2,367 MW), 111 solar energy projects (588 MW), 59 biomass projects (271 MW), 5 geothermal projects (87 MW), and 4 water power projects (11 MW).
New renewable energy electrical generating capacity was more than double that of coal (2 new units totaling 1,608 MW). No new nuclear capacity came on line during the first half of 2012. However, 40 new natural gas units came on line with 3,708 MW of capacity (42% of the total). Renewable energy sources now account for 14.76% of total installed operating generating capacity (water-8.66%; wind-4.30%, biomass-1.23%, geothermal-0.31%, solar**-0.26%). This is more than nuclear (9.16%) but less than natural gas (41.83%) and coal (29.66%). The balance comes from waste heat (0.07%).
As natural gas and renewable energy development has surged, net generation from coal has fallen substantially. According to the EIA figures, coal-fired electricity has dropped 20 percent since May of 2011. (The decline in domestic coal is mostly due to plants switching to natural gas, according to the EIA — not EPA regulations).
Obama himself acknowledged the surge in renewable energy yesterday during a campaign event at Colorado State University:
“You believed we could use less foreign oil and reduce the carbon pollution that threatens our planet. And in just four years, we have doubled the generation of clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. We developed new fuel standards for our cars so that cars are going to get 55 miles a gallon next decade. That will save you money at the pump. It will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a level roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of carbon emissions from all the cars in the world put together.”
“If your friends or neighbors are concerned about energy, you tell them, do we want an energy plan written by and for big oil companies?”
“Or do we want an all-of-the-above energy strategy for America — renewable sources of energy. Governor Romney calls them ‘imaginary.’ Congressman Ryan calls them a ‘fad.’ I think they’re the future. I think they’re worth fighting for.”