Newsbrief Archive

Electric Currents News - April 2016

The Renewable Energy Movement is Growing

As the technology matures, government restraints on carbon emissions become more stringent and customers have a wider array of energy choices, renewable energy has evolved into a source that is gaining increased favor with US utilities. As a result, renewables are meeting a progressively larger share of the country’s energy needs.

In a nutshell, that is the major finding of a 2014 report released by Ceres, a nonprofit organization advocating for sustainability, and Clean Edge, an information services corporation that provides detailed data about the clean-energy industry.

The report, Benchmarking Utility Clean Energy Deployment, researched 32 of the largest US investor-owned electric utility holding companies, evaluating their efforts in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Companies were rated on three major components of clean energy deployment:

  • Renewable energy sales
  • Annual savings attributed to energy efficiency
  • Energy savings from new programs or new participants in existing programs


Growth of Renewable Generation 

According to this study, renewable energy—wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, waste heat and small-scale hydroelectric —accounted for 49 percent of new electric generating capacity in 2012. In fact, new wind development is outpacing natural gas.

“New” is the key operative term, indicating that the trend toward renewables is accelerating but is still a fraction of overall electricity generation. The US Energy Information Administration estimated 2014 electricity generation sources as follows:

Source & Percent of Total Generation

  • Coal 39%
  • Natural gas 27%
  • Nuclear 19%
  • Hydropower 6%
  • Wind 4.4%
  • Biomass 1.7%
  • Geothermal 0.4%
  • Solar 0.4%
  • Petroleum 1%
  • Other 1.1%


So, while traditional non-renewable sources produce 85 percent of our electricity, the renewable market is growing rapidly. A recent Department of Energy study reported that “renewables could feasibly provide 80 percent of the nation’s energy by 2050.”

Emission Guidelines

A major factor in the growth of renewables is new emission guidelines established by the Environmental Protection Agency. The proposed legislation seeks a 30 percent reduction in power plant CO2 emissions by 2030 (based on 2005 levels).

Looking ahead to a time when these emission guidelines become mandatory, many electric utilities are shifting toward renewable sources for generation.

Wide Disparities

Although the renewable energy industry is showing substantial growth overall, there is significant inconsistency in participation among individual utilities. The report cited ““wide disparities … in the extent to which electric utilities currently deliver renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

For example, five of the 32 utilities in the study accounted for 54 percent of total renewable energy sales. At these five companies, renewable energy  provided 17-21 percent of retail electricity sales in 2012.

In a story published by Utility Dive, an electric industry news outlet, Ceres President Mindy Lubber acknowledged this disproportionate commitment to clean energy. “Our analysis shows that some utilities are beginning to deliver substantial amounts of clean energy and energy efficiency, while others are lagging,” she said.

Energy Choices

The Ceres and Clean Edge report stated that “state policies are a key driver in utility clean-energy investment” but also noted that customers can exert substantial influence. If local utilities don’t provide clean-energy options, consumers have the option to utilize alternative energy options, such as community choice aggregation, distributed generation and solar leasing.

The bottom line is this: the electricity generation industry is becoming more competitive with each passing day and renewable energy has become a big part of the overall business strategy.   

For educational resources that address renewables, sustainability, and the environment, call us at 800-428-5837, email or visit