Renewables Becoming Cost-Competitive With Fossil Fuels in the U.S.

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—Renewable resources currently provide just over 6 percent of total U.S. energy, but that figure could increase rapidly in the years ahead, according to a joint report released today by the Worldwatch Institute and the Center for American Progress, "American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security."

Many of the new technologies that harness renewables are, or soon will be, economically competitive with fossil fuels. Dynamic growth rates are driving down costs and spurring rapid advances in technologies. Since 2000, global wind energy generation has more than tripled; solar cell production has risen six-fold; production of fuel ethanol from crops have more than doubled; and biodiesel production has expanded nearly four-fold. Annual global investment in "new" renewable energy has risen almost six-fold since 1995, with cumulative investment over this period nearly $180 billion.

"With oil prices soaring, the security risks of petroleum dependence growing, and the environmental costs of today's fuels becoming more apparent, the country faces compelling reasons to put these technologies to use on a larger scale," notes the report. Some of the findings include:

  • America boasts some of the world's best renewable energy resources, which have the potential to meet a rising and significant share of the nation's energy demand. For example, one-fourth of U.S. land area has winds powerful enough to generate electricity as cheaply as natural gas and coal, and the solar resources of just seven southwest states could provide 10 times the current electric generating capacity.
  • All but four U.S. states now have incentives in place to promote renewable energy, while more than a dozen have enacted new renewable energy laws in the past few years, and four states strengthened their targets in 2005.
  • California gets 31 percent of its electricity from renewable resources; 12 percent of this comes from non-hydro sources such as wind and geothermal energy.
  • Texas now has the country's largest collection of wind generators. The United States led the world in wind energy installations in 2005.
  • Iowa produces enough ethanol that, if consumed in-state, would meet half the state's gasoline requirements.
  • Renewable energy creates more jobs per unit of energy produced and per dollar spent than fossil fuel technologies do.

 

Despite strong public support and rapidly rising interest in renewable technologies, the U.S. has not kept up with the rapid growth in the sector globally over the past decade. If the U.S. is to join the world leaders in renewable energy—among them Germany, Spain, and Japan—it will need world-class energy policies based on a sustained and consistent policy framework at the local, state, and national levels.

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Note to Editors: 

Schedule an Interview: To schedule an interview with contributors to the report, please contact: Darcey Rakestraw, Communications Manager, Worldwatch Institute, 202.452.1992 x 517 (drakestraw@worldwatch.org); or Daniella Gibbs Leger, Director of Press Relations, Center for American Progress, 202.741.6258 (dleger@americanprogress.org).

The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization that focuses on innovative solutions to global environmental, resource, and economic issues. The Institute’s State of the World report has been published in 36 languages and is read annually by prime ministers, CEOs, and thousands of university students. Founded in 1974, Worldwatch’s current priorities include transforming the world’s energy and agricultural systems to better meet human needs and protect the environment, as well as the broader challenge of building a sustainable global economy.

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is "of the people, by the people, and for the people."