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Renewables on the Rise

A decade of progress toward a clean energy future

 

Clean energy technology has boomed in the last decade, enabling Americans to envision a future powered by 100 percent renewable energy. “Renewables on the Rise 2020” tells the story of the dramatic growth of clean energy. The data story below explains how strong state renewable energy commitments have helped to spark the clean energy revolution. The interactive charts enable you to explore how clean energy technology is growing in your state. And the six fact sheets provide a detailed look at the key technologies driving America toward clean, renewable energy — from electric vehicles to offshore wind power — and the hope they provide for the future. 

  • In 2001, America got one half of one percent of its electricity from wind, solar and geothermal energy.

    Today, more than 10% of America's electricity comes from the wind, the sun and the earth.

    This is the story of how that happened. And what's coming next.
    Click to advance

  • 2001: Wind, solar and geothermal energy produce 0.5% of the nation's electricity. The Department of Energy forecasts that by 2020 this will double — to roughly 1%.

  • 2002: California, the nation's most populous state, requires 20% of its electricity to come from renewable energy by 2017. California's move nearly triples the amount of renewable electricity to which states have committed by 2020.

  • 2003: State renewable energy targets would result in 2.4% of the nation's electricity coming from renewables by 2020.

  • 2004: Five more states adopt renewable electricity standards, with Colorado becoming the first to do so by popular vote.

  • 2005: Texas moves to invest billions of dollars in electric transmission capacity, unlocking a massive expansion of wind energy.

  • 2006: California adopts Million Solar Roofs Initiative, dedicating $3 billion to fueling expansion of solar energy. Meanwhile, Washington and Maine adopt new renewable electricity targets while Arizona and New Jersey increase theirs, leading to a 19% jump in states' renewable energy commitments.

  • 2007: Five more states adopt renewable electricity standards, increasing states' 2020 renewable electricity commitments by another 25%. Wind, solar and geothermal power produce 1.2% of nation's electricity, twice as much as in 2001.

  • 2008: Missouri voters adopt 15% renewable energy target by 2021, joining Ohio and Michigan in adopting new renewable targets.

  • 2009: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides $25 billion in renewable energy grants, sparking clean energy during the recession.

  • 2010: Colorado increases its renewable goal for second time, to 30% by 2020. Six other states increase or amend their renewable targets.

  • 2011: California increases its renewable electricity goal to 33% by 2020 amid a wind and solar energy boom in the state.

  • 2012: Wind power surpasses gas to become the number one source of new electricity generation capacity in America.

  • 2013: Wind, solar and geothermal exceed 4% of U.S. electricity supply, more than eight times the level in 2001.

  • 2014: Burlington, Vermont, becomes first U.S. city to be powered by 100% renewable electricity.

  • 2015: Hawaii becomes first state to adopt a statewide 100% renewable electricity standard.

  • 2016: Wind, solar and geothermal exceed 7% of U.S. electricity supply, more than doubling over the previous five years.

  • 2017: Wind and solar energy provide 10% of America's electricity in March and April, cracking that threshold for the first time ever.

  • 2018: California sets a standard of 100% clean electricity by 2045. And the nation surpasses its renewable energy targets for 2020, two years early.

  • 2019: Five more states (as well as Washington, D.C.) adopt 100% clean electricity requirements.

  • 2020: Wind, solar and geothermal power exceed 10% of annual U.S. electricity supply (based on 2019 data).

  • That's enough to power all the homes in 423 cities the size of Des Moines. But there's still a long way to go. Here's what could happen next...

  • 2030: Thanks to state clean energy targets and improvements in renewable energy, America is on track to get 23% of our electricity from wind, solar and geothermal power by 2030, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

  • 2040: We are on track to get 26% of our electricity from the wind, sun and earth by 2040.

  • 2050: And we will get nearly a third of our electricity from solar, wind and geothermal power by 2050.

  • But a third is not enough. We have the resources and the know-how to set a goal of achieving 100% renewable energy. And with dirty energy sources putting our health and our climate at risk, we need to start now.

Wind and solar energy were just beginning to take off 10 years ago; today, they are everyday parts of America’s energy landscape. America produces almost four times as much renewable electricity from the sun and wind as it did in 2010. Today, wind, solar and geothermal power provide more than 10 percent of our nation’s electricity.

That’s not all. Just a decade ago, energy-saving LED light bulbs cost $40 apiece; today, they cost a couple dollars at the hardware store. Just a few years ago, electric vehicles seemed a far-off solution to decarbonize our transportation system; now, they have broken through to the mass market.

Virtually every day, there are new developments that increase our ability to produce renewable energy, apply renewable energy more widely and flexibly to meet a wide range of energy needs, and reduce our overall energy use — developments that enable us to envision an economy powered entirely with clean, renewable energy.

The last decade has proven that clean energy can power American homes, businesses and industry — and has put America on the cusp of a dramatic shift away from polluting energy sources. With renewable energy prices falling and new energy-saving technologies coming on line every day, states, cities, businesses and the nation should work to obtain 100 percent of our energy from clean, renewable sources.

Clean energy leadership

States across America are taking advantage of the power of clean, renewable energy. There are clean energy leaders in big states and small states, red states and blue states, states on the coasts and states in the heartland. Explore the charts below to see how clean energy has grown in your state over the last decade.

Untapped potential

Rapid improvements in technology and plummeting prices for clean energy suggest that America has only begun to tap its vast clean energy potential.

Nearly every segment of the clean energy market is experiencing rapid price declines. According to a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), generation costs for onshore wind and solar PV have fallen between 3 percent and 16 percent every year from 2010 to 2019. The cost of utility-scale solar PV electricity fell 82 percent from 2010 to 2019, while the cost for onshore wind electricity fell by 39 percent in the same time period.

Renewable energy is only expected to get cheaper. Experts predict that the cost of solar PV utility systems will fall by 20 percent from 2020 to 2025, and solar PV is expected to be among the cheapest sources of power available by 2050. BloombergNEF predicts that the cost of utility-scale lithium-ion batteries will fall by 52 percent between 2018 and 2030, and that the U.S. will exceed 100 GW of installed battery storage by 2040, an almost 100-fold increase from current capacity.

Technology advances are also making renewable energy technologies more efficient and effective. In 2007, the highest-capacity wind turbine in the world was 6 MW. Last year, General Electric deployed the first prototype of its massive “Haliade-X” wind turbine, which has a capacity of 12 MW, and is considered the most powerful offshore wind turbine in the world with the ability to power up to 16,000 homes.

New technologies that reduce energy consumption are becoming increasingly popular, such as LED lighting, which uses up to 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs. By 2027, the Department of Energy estimates LEDs could save 348 terawatt-hours of electricity, which is equivalent to the annual electrical output of 44 large power plants.

America’s renewable energy resources are enough to power the nation several times over. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States has the technical potential to meet its current electricity needs more than 75 times over with solar energy and more than 10 times over with wind energy. The technologies needed to harness and apply renewable energy are advancing rapidly. And researchers from a wide variety of academic and governmental institutions have developed a variety of scenarios suggesting renewable energy can meet all or nearly all of our society’s needs.

Moving forward

The U.S. should plan to meet all of its energy needs — for electricity, transportation and industry — with clean, renewable energy, and put policies and programs in place to achieve that goal.

Repowering America with clean, renewable energy is a key strategy in phasing out carbon pollution by 2050 — a necessary step to prevent the worst impacts of global warming. Transitioning to clean, renewable energy will also improve our health by preventing hazardous air pollution, and increase our safety by protecting us from the hazards of extracting, transporting and processing dangerous fuels.

While clean, renewable energy is advancing rapidly, fully replacing fossil fuels will require additional commitment and action. To accelerate progress, a growing number of businesses, cities and states are adopting bold renewable energy targets and goals. Hawaii set the first 100 percent renewable energy target in 2015, and has since been joined by California, New Mexico, Maine, New York, Virginia and Washington.

Local governments, utilities and companies are also taking action. There are 165 cities and towns across the country that have committed to 100 percent renewable energy, and 50 cities have already achieved it. Several utilities, including Xcel Energy, the Platte River Power Authority and MidAmerican Energy, have made commitments to source their electricity from carbon-free or renewable sources. The organization RE100 has also collected 100 percent renewable energy commitments from over 260 companies, including IKEA, Google and Facebook.

Credits, methodology and sources