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Electricity from Renewable Resources: Status, Prospects, and Impediments
opportunities for the United States. Sufficient domestic renewable resources exist to allow renewable electricity to play a significant role in future electricity generation and thus help confront issues related to climate change, energy security, and the escalation of energy costs.
Generation of electricity from renewable resources has increased substantially over the past 20 years. As shown in Chapter 1, some sources have sustained a 20 percent or higher compound annual growth rate in capacity expansion and electricity generation over the past decade. However, non-hydroelectric renewable resources still provide only a small percentage of total U.S. electricity generation (about 2.5 percent of all electricity generated), even with these large recent growth rates. The most recent U.S. Energy Information Administration projections, which are presented in Chapter 1, indicate that under a “business as usual” scenario, the share of electricity generated from non-hydroelectric renewable resources in 2030 would be only 8 percent of the total U.S. electricity generated.
The panel concluded that sustained actions involving the coordination of policy, technology, and capital investment will be essential to achieving a greatly increased market penetration of renewable electricity. All three of these factors are important because improvements in the economics of renewable electricity generation, large increases in the scale and rate of deployment, and the establishment of consistent long-term policies are all required in order for renewables to make a material contribution to the nation’s energy supply. Although continued technological advances are critical, the degree of penetration by renewable electricity will also be determined by actions that collectively center on sustainably improving the economic competiveness of electricity generated from renewable versus other resources and on policy initiatives that have a positive impact on competitive balance and the ease of deployment of renewable electricity.
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES AHEAD FORTHE USE OF RENEWABLE ELECTRCITY
Immense challenges are presented by the need to reduce the vulnerabilities associated with climate change, energy supply interruptions, and volatile fossil-fuel markets. Reducing electric-sector CO2 emissions by significant levels will require major changes in how we use and produce electricity. Cutting energy imports and substantially reducing our dependence on fossil fuels also will involve major changes. Reliance on a greater amount of renewable energy, particularly renewable