U.S. renewable energy has record month and year

The latest Electric Power Monthly Report released by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows net U.S. electrical generation from renewable sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro, and wind) reached an all-time high in May of 2009, comprising 13% of the total electrical generation for the month. Renewable sources for May ’09 generated 40,395,000 Megawatt hours (Mwh), 7.7% higher than for May of 2008, and thus far the highest figure ever reported by the EIA.

Total net electrical generation in May 2009 from all sources, including renewables, fossil fuels, and nuclear, was 311,411,000 Mwh – a drop of 4.1 percent from the 324,589,000 Mwh generated in May 2008.

The 13 percent share of U.S. net electrical generation provided by renewable sources in May 2009 consists of 9.4 percent from conventional hydropower and 3.6 percent from non-hydro renewables. The latter figure includes approximately 1.8 percent from wind, 1.3 percent from biomass, 0.4 percent from geothermal, and 0.3 from solar thermal and photovoltaics (totals do not exactly equal due to rounding).

Comparing the month of May 2009 to the month of May 2008, net electrical generation from wind sources increased by 12.5 percent; higher wind generation totals in the state of Iowa accounted for 52.2 percent of the national increase. This large increase occurred as 11 new Iowa wind farms began generating electricity at the end of 2008. Conventional hydropower increased by 10.2 percent, reflecting an increase in generation of 2,705,000 Mwh. Solar thermal and photovoltaics combined increased by 3.5 percent.

On the other hand, coal dropped by 14.8 percent and petroleum liquids by 8.3 percent. Nuclear power grew by a paltry 0.6 percent. However, natural gas expanded by 10.6 percent.

Renewable Energy Consumption and Electricity Preliminary Statistics 2008

Renewable energy consumption grew by 7 percent between 2007 and 2008, despite a 2 percent decline in total U.S. energy consumption. Total renewable energy consumption increased by 487 trillion Btu to 7,301 trillion Btu. This is the highest level attained based on EIA estimates of renewable energy back to 1949, and is due to substantial increases in the use of biofuels, wind and solar energy. Renewable energy’s share of total U.S. energy consumption was over 7 percent in 2008, compared to 6 percent in 2004 .

Renewable energy is consumed across all 5 energy use sectors. The two largest consuming sectors are electric power and industrial, though patterns are changing. In 2008, the electric power sector accounted for 51 percent of renewable energy consumption and the industrial sector 28 percent, down from 56 and 30 percent, respectively, in 2004. This was due in some measure to the substantial change in the transportation sector, whose share rose from 5 to 11 percent between 2004 and 2008. The gain was due to increased consumption of biofuels, primarily ethanol derived from corn, but also to a lesser extent biodiesel. Both are fuels needed to meet the Federal Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires an increasing supply of renewable fuels through 2022.

The Renewable Fuels Association reported that the number of operating ethanol refineries in the U.S. more than doubled in number from 81 in January 2005 to 170 in January 2009. Capacity was spread across the United States but concentrated in the midwestern states. These refineries were responsible for producing 220 million barrels, or 778 trillion Btu of fuel ethanol in 2008, up from 81 million barrels or 287 trillion Btu in 2004. When trade and stock changes are accounted for, ethanol consumption was 229 million barrels, or 809 trillion Btu in 2008. Related ethanol co-products and losses in the industrial sector increased from 210 to 562 trillion Btu between 2004 and 2008.

Biodiesel consumption declined from 46 trillion Btu in 2007 to 41 trillion Btu in 2008 due to the large volume of exports. U.S. domestic biodiesel production was actually up from 62 to 87 trillion Btu between 2007 and 2008.[3]

Finally the two smallest sectors, residential and commercial, maintained their shares of total renewable energy consumption at 8 and 2 percent, respectively.


While total U.S. generation declined slightly to 4,110 billion kilowatthours in 2008, renewable generation increased by 5 percent compared to 2007 to 372 billion kilowatthours. The biggest increase in renewable generation was the 51 percent, or 18 billion kilowatthours, increase for wind. By the end of 2008, wind provided 1.3 percent of total U.S. generation (from all energy sources), up from 0.4 percent in 2004. This is largely attributed to dramatic expansion in wind capacity in the last few years.

Conventional hydroelectric generation, by far the largest source of renewable electricity, stayed about the same at 248 billion kilowatthours. Following a sharp decline in 2007, California’s hydroelectric generation declined by another 9 billion kilowatthours in 2008 due to worsening drought conditions since 2006.[5] But California’s hydroelectric losses were largely offset by increases in other regions of the U.S. Washington State remained the largest source of hydroelectric power with 77 billion kilowatthours.

According to preliminary data collected by EIA, U.S. total electric net summer capacity increased by 13,718 megawatts to 1,008,606 megawatts between 2007 and 2008. More than half of this net change was accounted for by wind (7,332 megawatts), followed closely by natural gas. Total wind capacity stood at 23,847 megawatts at year’s end —up from just 6,456 megawatts in 2004.

By year’s end, seven states had more than 1,000 megawatts of wind capacity. They were led by Texas, followed by Iowa, which took over second place from California for the most installed wind capacity. Three states – Indiana, New Hampshire and Utah – reported having utility-scale wind capacity for the first time.

Landfill gas capacity also expanded by about 77 megawatts scattered over a number of states, while geothermal capacity increased by a total of 30 megawatts for Idaho and Nevada together.

The growing importance of state renewable portfolio standards and the proposals for a national renewable energy standard have sparked an interest in the share of U. S. generation provided by renewable energy. In 2008, renewable energy provided 9.0 percent of total electricity generated in the U.S. up from 8.5 percent in 2007. Nonhydroelectric renewable power provided 3.0 percent in 2008, up from 2.5 percent in the prior year. Among the states, California, with its diverse supply of renewable energy, continued to provide the most nonhydroelectric renewable power, about 25 billion kilowatthours in 2008. Texas was second with 15 billion kilowatthours.