By - Jim Vess

NREL Data Book charts growth of renewable-electricity generation in 2015

Energize Weekly, November 30, 2016

Renewable energy generation continued to grow in the U.S. even as demands for electricity decline, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) 2105 Renewable Energy Data Book. The Data Book  issued this month is compiled by NREL for the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Since it was first released in 2009, the Renewable Energy Data Book has provided useful insights for policymakers, analysts and investors,” NREL Energy Analyst Philipp Beiter said in a statement. “The 2015 version of the data book highlights the ongoing trend of growing renewable energy capacity and generation in the United States and globally.”

In 2015, U.S. electric power sector energy consumption decreased to 38.1 quadrillion British thermal units or BTUs, a 1.3 percent drop from 2014. There had been small increases in electricity consumption in 2104 and 2013.

Still, there were 23,000 megawatts (MW) of new capacity installed in 2015 while 21,000 MW of generation units were retired, with nearly three-quarters coming from closing coal-fired plants.

Renewable electricity accounted for 64 percent of U.S. electricity capacity additions in 2015, compared to 52 percent in 2014 and overall renewable electricity generation increased 2.4 percent in 2015. Natural gas-fired generation also grew.

The result is that at year’s end, coal made up 26.7 percent of the 1.2 gigawatts (GW) of U.S. generating capacity, down from 30 percent in 2011 and natural gas-fired capacity was 43.1 percent up 1.3 percent from 2011.

During the same period, renewable energy generation, while starting at a much lower level, had a bigger jump reaching 16.7 percent of total U.S. nameplate capacity, increasing its slice of the total by nearly 4 percent.

Nuclear power accounted for a little more than 9 percent of the generating capacity, and petroleum accounted for nearly 4 percent.

The bulk of the 567 terawatt-hours of renewable electricity generated in 2015—more than 44 percent—came from hydropower, a resource that is largely concentrated in the Northwest. Wind generated 34 percent of the year’s electricity followed by biomass with 11 percent. Solar— both photovoltaic and concentrating solar—accounted for 8 percent. The remainder was generated using geothermal power.

While California continues to have the most installed renewable generation of any state, nearly 31 GW, the fastest growth in renewables were in Oklahoma, Utah and North Carolina.

California also installed more solar generation in 2105 than any other state. Overall, the country now has nearly 26 GW of photovoltaic solar and 1.8 GW of concentrating solar.

Texas leads the nation installed wind capacity with 18 GW, after adding 3.6 GW in 2105. Other states with significant growth in wind power in 2105 included Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa. Overall, installed wind capacity grew 12.3 percent in 2015 in the U.S. to 74 GW.

Internationally, cumulative global renewable electricity installed capacity grew by 7.9 percent in 2015 to 1,848 GW compared to 2104. New investments in clean energy around the world in 2015 were up more 4 percent year-on-year to $329 billion.

China led the world in cumulative total renewable electricity installed capacity in 2015. China also led in cumulative wind, hydropower capacity and grid-connected solar PV capacity.

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