Renewables accounted for 60.2 percent of the new U.S. electricity generation capacity for the first three quarters of 2015, according to the “Energy Infrastructure Update” from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Office of Energy Projects.
The cumulative installed capacity of biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind from Jan. 1 through Sept. 30 was 7,276 megawatts. It included 2,966 megawatts of new wind capacity, 40.76 percent of the total, as well as 1,137 megawatts of solar, 205 megawatts of biomass, 45 megawatts of geothermal steam and 27 megawatts of hydropower. Natural gas generation capacity grew by 2,884 megawatts in the same period.
In the month of September, wind topped the new generation capacity list with 448 megawatts, natural gas was second at 346 megawatts and solar was third with 20 megawatts of new capacity.
FERC puts renewables at 17.4 percent of total installed U.S. generating capacity, including 8.59 percent hydro, 5.91 percent wind, 1.43 percent biomass, 1.13 percent solar and 0.34 percent geothermal steam generation. No new nuclear capacity was added in 2015 and only 9 megawatts of oil and 3 megawatts of coal-fired capacity.
Critics point out the renewable numbers – especially those for solar – are underestimated because FERC does not fully account for distributed generation in its reports.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has published a strategic plan designed to help meet the Obama administration’s goal of doubling the nation’s energy productivity within the next 15 years.
The report, “Accelerate Energy Productivity 2030: A Strategic Roadmap for American Energy Innovation, Economic Growth and Competitiveness (http://energy2030.org/roadmap),” posits that families will be able to power their homes and vehicles using less energy, while businesses boost manufacturing at a lower cost and reduce harmful emissions.
Strategies include having states secure energy productivity through vehicle and product codes and standards, providing energy performance information to consumers and redesigning energy rates and policies.
The plan calls for the federal government to invest in research and development in transportation, building and manufacturing sectors. At the state level, representatives can pursue policies to encourage greater energy efficiency; promote new and innovative financing for investments that support energy productivity and incentivize increased deployment of combined heat and power.
Electric utilities can modernize grid infrastructure through “smart grid investments and improving the efficiency and interoperability of generation,” the report finds, in addition to investments in transmission, storage and distribution.