The Business Council for Sustainable Energy released its annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook today, and the findings are striking—the 2010’s really were the decade renewable energy went mainstream. In fact, renewable energy generation increased by 77 percent between 2010 and 2019, transforming the way we power American homes and businesses.
A clean energy transformation
Today, the U.S. has three times the amount of wind that it did when the 2010’s began. As noted when we announced the U.S. wind industry’s 100 gigawatt (GW) milestone, it took 28 years to build the country’s first 25 GW of wind. But it only took 11 to build the next 75. That’s an explosive growth rate, and with another 44 GW of wind under development and a burgeoning offshore wind resource, more wind is on the way. Looking pan renewable, the Factbook finds almost 150 GW of wind and solar were built over the past decade.
A clean environment doesn’t mean an economic sacrifice
By the end of the decade, wind and solar projects were often the lowest-cost sources of new electricity. So not only were these clean sources growing rapidly, they were also coming down in cost and providing affordable power.
Giving further proof to renewables’ affordability, the Factbook notes that retail power prices – the prices you and I pay for electricity – have been flat or declining over the past decade. Not only have renewables not caused prices to increase, they also haven’t impeded economic growth. In fact, the U.S. has posted 10 consecutive years of economic growth, and 2019’s $19 trillion GDP was 25 percent higher than it was in 2010. That means the U.S. economy continues to grow even while our energy sources have gotten cleaner, proof we don’t have to choose between a strong economy and a clean environment.
Freedom to choose
In 2010, companies choosing to seek out clean energy to power their operations was virtually unheard of. However, it’s commonplace today. In fact, AT&T and Walmart were two of the three largest purchasers of wind energy in 2019.
The 2020 Factbook finds that at least 18 regulated utilities now have green tariff programs that allow large electricity consumers to choose renewable power sources, and U.S. companies purchased enough wind- and solar-generated electricity to power eight million homes.
Emissions are down, but work remains
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by 4.1 percent during the 2010’s, according to the Factbook, and are down 12 percent since 2005. Wind energy has played a big role in that progress—in 2019 alone wind avoided 43 million cars’ worth of CO2 emissions.
The 2020 Factbook’s look back at the 2010’s shows a decade of enormous progress and innovation. That has led to economic prosperity, job creation and affordable clean energy for millions of families and businesses. But the best news is that clean energy is just getting started—if the 2010’s were the decade renewables went mainstream, the 2020’s are looking like the decade they’ll become dominant.