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Renewable Energy Provides 100% of All New US Electrical Generating Capacity in November 2013

According to the latest "Energy Infrastructure Update" report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's Office of Energy Projects, solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, and hydropower "units" provided 394 MW — or 100 percent — of all new electrical generation placed in-service in November 2013. There was no new capacity during the month from natural gas, coal, oil, or nuclear power. Renewable energy sources also provided 99 percent of all new electrical generating capacity in October.

For the first eleven months of 2013, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) have accounted for more than a third (34.9 percent) of all new electrical generating capacity: 2,631-MW solar, 1,108 MW wind, 519 MW biomass, 121 MW hydropower, and 39 MW geothermal. That is more than that provided thus far this year by coal (1,543 MW - 12.2 percent), oil (36 MW - 0.3 percent), and nuclear power (0 MW - 0.0 percent) combined. Solar alone comprises 20.8 percent of new generating capacity (2,631 MW) thus far this year - two-thirds more than its year-to-date total in 2012 (1,584 MW). However, natural gas has dominated 2013 thus far with 6,568 MW of new capacity (52.0 percent). 

Renewable sources now account for 15.9 percent of total installed U.S. operating generating capacity:  water - 8.42 percent, wind - 5.20 percent, biomass - 1.34 percent, solar - 0.61 percent, and geothermal steam — 0.33 percent.  This is more than nuclear (9.20 percent) and oil (4.05 percent) combined. Note that generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Actual net electrical generation from renewable energy sources in the United States now totals 13-14 percent.

Ironically — and in seeming contradiction to the growth rates reflected in the new FERC data — earlier this week, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released the preliminary data for its forthcoming the Annual Energy Outlook 2014 and projected that renewable sources would provide only a paltry 16 percent of the nation's electricity supply by 2040. EIA's own data reveal that renewables were already providing 14.2 percent of the nation's electrical generation as of June 30, 2013.

FERC's latest renewable energy capacity data, coupled with the actual electrical generation from renewable sources, reveal a growing disconnect with the longer-term projections being issued by EIA. With virtually all new electrical generation coming from renewables during the last two months, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower are rapidly outpacing EIA's unduly conservative forecasts.

Lead image: Renewables via Shutterstock

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Ken Bossong is the Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1993 to promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power a...

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