Renewables on the Rise

A decade of progress toward a clean energy future

The 2018 edition of a report by Frontier Group and
Download the report as a PDF.
Photo: Dennis Schroeder/National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Click buttons to view progress by clean energy technology.

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For complete list of sources, download full report PDF.

Solar: 2008 - 2013 solar: U.S. Energy Information Administration, State Energy Data System 2015 Update, downloaded from https://www.eia.gov/state/seds/ on 15 June 2017; 2008 solar generation for each state was calculated by subtracting solar thermal energy production from total solar energy production, and converting from BBTUs to GWh using annual EIA heat rates for noncombustible renewable energy from the State Energy Data System. 2014 - 2017 solar: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electricity Data Browser, accessed at www.eia.gov/electricity/data/browser/ on 15 May 2018.
Wind: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electricity Data Browser, accessed at www.eia.gov/electricity/data/browser/ on 15 May 2018.
Energy storage: Data includes battery storage installations that are 1 MW capacity or larger. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory for February 2018, downloaded from https://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/eia860M/ on 25 April 2018.
Electric vehicles: Auto Alliance, ZEV Sales Dashboard, accessed at autoalliance.org/energy-environment/zev-sales-dashboard/ on 2 May 2018.
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Clean energy technologies are booming across America

Since 2008, America has made rapid progress on renewable energy and the technologies that enable us to shift our economy to clean energy. Just a decade ago, many key clean energy technologies were limited to niche markets or perceived as too expensive. Today, the rapid adoption of wind and solar power and energy efficiency technologies — along with the emergence of electric vehicles and energy storage — provides us with greater confidence that a transition to an economy powered with clean, renewable energy is within reach.

Solar and wind energy have grown exponentially

In 2008, solar rooftops and utility-scale power plants produced 0.05 percent of America’s electricity, or enough electricity to power 180,000 average American homes. By the end of 2017, solar power generated more than 2 percent of America's electricity, enough to power 7 million average American homes.

By the end of 2008, America had built up a modest capacity for generating electricity from the wind, producing 1.5 percent of the nation’s electricity, enough to power more than 3 million homes. In 2017, wind turbines produced 6.9 percent of America’s power, enough to power 24 million homes.

America is also poised for an offshore wind breakthrough: In 2016, America's first utility-scale offshore wind turbines began spinning off the coast of Rhode Island.

Meanwhile, U.S. energy consumption has dropped by 1.1 percent since 2008, despite a growing population and economy. Between 1950 and 2008, total energy use in the United States nearly tripled. Today, America uses less energy than it did in 2000, when the country had 44 million fewer people.

Electric vehicles are increasingly popular

Transitioning the economy to renewable energy means ending the use of fossil fuels to power our cars and trucks as well as our homes. The first modern electric cars did not appear on American roads until the late 2000s, and as late as 2010 the number of electric cars numbered only in the hundreds. From 2008 to 2017, however, 395,000 all-electric vehicles were sold in the U.S., and in 2017 electric vehicles broke past 100,000 in annual sales for the first time.

Battery storage technology poised for growth

By storing energy generated by wind turbines and solar panels, energy storage technologies can help enable a future in which the vast majority of our energy comes from renewable sources. Because of their flexibility, batteries will likely play a particularly important function for a renewable grid — and there are signs that battery storage is taking off. Between 2008 and 2017, the U.S. added 666 MW of utility-scale battery energy storage, for a total of 708 MW — a 17-fold increase in battery storage power capacity.

Accelerating the pace of change

The U.S. can and must accelerate our clean energy progress and end our dependence on fossil fuels in order to prevent the worst impacts of global warming. Transitioning to clean, renewable energy will also improve our health by preventing hazardous air pollution.

If renewable energy generation grows by 14 percent per year — slightly more than two-thirds of the current rate of growth, wind and solar alone will produce enough electricity to meet all of our current electricity needs by 2035.




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