The EIA data is not new - it is old data the agency has been publishing since last December. More importantly, it is almost certainly wrong. While seeming to be good news for renewables, the EIA projections for 2040 greatly low-ball the share of U.S. electrical generation to be provided by solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower. If recent growth trends merely continue (and they will likely accelerate due to ever-lower costs), renewables should provide closer to double the levels now projected by EIA in 2040 and there is good reason to think they could go even higher. So the appropriate response to the newest EIA report should be one that critiques the agency for its unduly conservative numbers that ultimately do the renewable energy community no favors.
In response to Chris Yaroz, the article includes the link to the FERC "infrastructure" report (which is only five pages long); the two tables from which the statistics are drawn can be found near the end of the report. The data and corresponding calculations are fairly simple and straight-forward.
In response to Brian Donovan, his point about the lower capacity factors for wind and solar is correct; my article is slightly edited; the unedited version noted that there is a difference between capacity and capacity factor. Currently FERC data show that renewable energy capacty is about 16% of the U.S. total; the latest EIA data (as of June 23) show that actual generation from renewables accounts for about 14% of the U.S. total - reflecting the lower capacity factors associated with solar and wind but not necessarily with hydro, biomass, and geothermal. Mr. Donovan is also correct about small-scale pv which is typically not included in the the FERC and EIA calculations; if it were, solar's contribution would roughly double (according to a number of reasonable guesstimates by different sources - including EIA).
In response to Dr. Canara:
Renewables now account for about 16% of installed generating capacity and 13% of actual net electrical generation. Renewables accounted for about 37% of new generating capacity in 2013. During 2013, non-hydro renewables increased their actual electrical generation by approximately 18% over 2012 levels.
Good question re. whether the renewable energy numbers include distributed residential and commercial systems. It is my understanding that net-metered systems are included in data compiled by EIA for electrical generation but not systems that are not grid connected. EIA has, in the past, acknowledged that renewable energy - particularly solar - is understated for this reason by some amount. That amount is probably relatively small but it is an issue of interest to the SUN DAY Campaign and one which we plan to explore in the very near future. I believe the FERC data on capacity additions does not include very small distributed systems, whether or not net-metered ... but again, this is unclear from info previously provided by FERC.
While the energy bill contains some positive provisions for energy efficiency as well as solar, wind, geothermal, biofuels, hydropower, and fuel cells, they are mostly short-term and inadequate, and therefore will fail to tap the full potential of sustainable energy options. On the other hand, the bill is heavily tilted in favor of - and provides the lion's share of $14 billion in subsidies for - mature, polluting energy technologies. Consequently, rising energy imports, climate change, and reliance on polluting fossil fuel and nuclear technologies will continue to threaten the nation's economy, national security, public health, and the environment. None of these problems will go away. None will be solved by the new energy bill. In fact, all may well be made worse by it. It's time for Congress to return to the drawing board and produce real energy legislation.
Looking at the voting pattern of most congressional Democrats versus most Republicans, there is a clear line in the sand with the Democrats overwhelmingly favoring policies more sympathetic to efficiency and renewables. In that regard, David's analysis is correct. However, even if the Democrats had been able to incorporate all of their major recommendations, the end result would still be a bill that does not sufficiently alter the nation's energy policies. The U.S. needs to embark on a path that drastically reduces greenhouse gas emissions (e.g., 80% by mid-century) while phasing out nuclear power and most energy imports. Few Democratic proposals would do more than make baby steps in those directions. So while the Republicans, in the main, are advancing energy policies that are dangerous to the environment, public health, the economy, and national security, the Democrats are only putting forth alternatives that - while significantly better - are still completely inadequate.