Renewables Provide 14 Percent of Electrical Generation During First Third of 2014

Two new back-to-back reports from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) provide a snapshot of U.S. energy trends for the first months of 2014.

EIA's "Electric Power Monthly" was released on June 23 and provides data through April 30 for the nation's electrical sector.  EIA's "Monthly Energy Review" was released June 25 and provides data for the first quarter of 2014 for all energy sectors (e.g., electricity, transportation, thermal).

From EIA's "Electric Power Monthly" report, five developments of particular note include:

First, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) provided over 14 percent of the nation's electricity for the first four months of 2014 (i.e., 14.05 percent) — a level that the EIA has been saying might not be reached until 2040.

Second, wind has now passed the 5 percent threshold (i.e., it accounted for 5.15 percent of the electricity generated in the U.S. during the first third of 2014).

Third, electrical generation from solar for the first four months of 2014 is more than double that for the same period in 2013 (increasingly 108.9 percent).

Fourth, non-hydro renewables (i.e., biomass, geothermal, solar, wind) have produced more electricity in the U.S. than conventional hydropower for each of the first four months of 2014 as well as for the cumulative four-month period (52.7 percent vs. 47.3 percent).

Fifth, electrical generation from nuclear power rose 0.7 percent in the first four months of 2014 compared to the first third of 2013; however, as a share of total U.S. electrical generation, nuclear declined from 19.71 percent in the first third of 2013 to 19.15 percent in first third of 2014.

From EIA's "Monthly Energy Review," five additional findings include:

First, domestic energy production from renewable sources (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) grew by 4.36 percent during the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013; renewable sources accounted for 11.41 percent of total U.S. energy production.

Second, consumption of renewable energy increased by 3.52 percent over 2013 levels and accounted for 8.83 percent of U.S. energy used in all sectors (electricity, transportation, etc.) during the first three months of 2014.

Third, comparing the first quarter of 2014 to the same period in 2013, production of fuel ethanol (measured as Mbbl) — used primarily in the transportation sector — grew by 11.74 percent and biodiesel by 10.85 percent.

Fourth, consumption of fossil fuels increased by 5.17 percent in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 — coal by 8.91 percent, natural gas by 7.43 percent, and petroleum by 1.07 percent.

Fifth, as a consequence, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the consumption of fossil fuels rose by 5.48 percent during the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013 and by 10.52 percent when compared to the first quarter of 2012.

Lead image: Solar panels 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 and fossil fuels.

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