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Renewable energy outpaces fossil fuel and nuclear growth

Renewable energy sources continue to expand rapidly while substantially outpacing the growth rates of fossil fuels and nuclear power, according to the Monthly Energy Review by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

By Kari Williamson

For the first 9 months of 2011, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass/biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, wind) provided 11.95% of domestic US energy production. That compares to 10.85% for the same period in 2010 and 10.33% in 2009. By comparison, nuclear power provided just 10.62% of the nation's energy production in the first three quarters of 2011 - i.e., 11.10% less than renewable energy.

Looking at all energy sectors (e.g., electricity, transportation, thermal), renewable energy output, including hydropower, grew by 14.44% in 2011 compared to 2010. Among the renewable energy sources, conventional hydropower provided 4.35% of domestic energy production during the first 9 months of 2011, followed by biomass (3.15%), biofuels (2.57%), wind (1.45%), geothermal (0.29%), and solar (0.15%).

On the consumption side, which includes oil and other energy imports, renewable sources accounted for 9.35% of total U.S. energy use during the first 9 months of 2011.

Electricity

Looking at just the electricity sector, according to the EIA data, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, water wind) provided 12.73% of net US electrical generation. This represents an increase of 24.73% compared to the same 9-month period in 2010. By comparison, electrical generation from coal dropped by 4.2% while nuclear output declined by 2.8%. Natural gas electrical generation rose by 1.6%.

Conventional hydropower accounted for 8.21% of net electrical generation during the first 9 months of 2011 – an increase of 29.6% compared to 2010. Non-hydro renewable energy accounted for 4.52% of net electrical generation (wind - 2.73%, biomass - 1.34%, geothermal - 0.40%, solar - 0.05%). Compared to the first three quarters of 2010, solar-generated electricity expanded in 2011 by 46.5%; wind by 27.1%, geothermal by 9.4%, and biomass by 1.3%.

“Notwithstanding the recession of the past three years, renewable energy sources have experienced explosive rates of growth that other industries can only envy,” says Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign.

“The investments in sustainable energy made by the federal government as well as state and private funders have paid off handsomely underscoring the short-sightedness of emerging proposals to cut back on or discontinue such support.”

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