Bioenergy, Geothermal, Hydropower, Project Development, Solar, Wind Power

635 GW Possible with U.S. Political Shift

How much power can renewable energy generate in the U.S. if the appropriate mix of policies and market-based incentives are implemented? According to a joint report coordinated by the American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE), the answer is 635 gigawatts (GW) by 2025.

Released yesterday, the 2007 Outlook on Renewable Energy in America projects that wind power could account for 248 GW; solar energy 164 GW; hydro, ocean and tidal energy 23 GW; geothermal energy 100 GW; and biomass and biofuels 100 GW. But unless steps are taken to change the perceptions of U.S. politicians and policymakers, the report concludes that coordinated, sustained policies that expand renewable energy markets, promote and deploy new technology, and encourage renewable energy use in critical market sectors can’t happen. “We still have elected officials at the federal and state level who honestly believe that renewable energy cannot power the country…I think they’re incorrect,” said Michael T. Eckhart, ACORE president. “We believe that renewable energy can power this country, and the world, and provide the energy necessary to support economic growth.” Despite the fact that at least one-third of U.S. governors are showing individual leadership in enacting renewable energy policy, the report notes that a fundamental problem with the development and deployment of renewable technologies has been the uncertainty of governmental policy — and that support for both research-push and market-pull policies has been constrained by short-term commitments, which are destabilizing to industrial growth. “Steady, long-term policy support is crucial to sustain this growth and attract investment,” said Randall Swisher, executive director of the American Wind Energy Association. “A national renewable portfolio standard and a long-term extension of the renewable energy production tax credit are measures that can be adopted now and would unleash billions of dollars in new projects and manufacturing plants, create tens of thousands of jobs and generate revenue for farmers and rural communities, while jump-starting cost-effective action against global warming.” This inability to create long-term commitments in the renewable energy sectors may be attributed to the lingering doubt in the minds of many politicians that renewable energy simply does not have what it takes to power the country. This doubt, said Eckhart, perpetuates the myth that the only reliable energy sources are oil, coal and nuclear power. “That is a misperception that is deeply embedded in the psyche of elected officials because they’re being lobbied by other forces that want to persuade them that we cannot do the job,” said Eckhart. “And this document is the beginning of that…sort of like the bugle coming across the horizon at you. This is where we’re coming on; we’re starting to pull the story together that yes we can do this job. Yes, we can deliver tremendous amounts of megawatts and gigawatts.” “If we can build their confidence,” added Eckhart. “Then we’ve got a come-from-behind victory.” Currently the Energy Information Administration (EIA), which provides official energy statistics from the U.S. government, projects that the share of renewable electricity generation will remain at 9% in 2030 based on current “business as usual” policy. “The answer is not that the [EIA statistics] are wrong, they’re exactly right. Their conclusion is renewable energy doesn’t amount to much if we don’t change policy. That’s our whole point. That if we don’t change policy we cannot expect a substantial difference in the outcome,” said Eckhart. While the report provides no specific recommendations and policies, and was never intended to be a legislative guide, it does give an overview on the type of policy package that would work best for each renewable technology. The Outlook on Renewable Energy in America report was led by ACORE. For a complete list of endorsing organizations and participants, or for more information about the report, visit the ACORE website.