The US can dramatically expand renewable energy by utilizing existing technologies and making smart investments to improve the country's electricity system.
Renewable energy is providing clean, reliable electricity across the United States and around the world. It is also growing rapidly, with record numbers of new wind and solar installations coming online in the U.S. over the past few years.
We can readily continue this rapid expansion of renewable energy — and accelerate the transition away from dirty, coal-fired power plants — by utilizing existing technologies, investing in improvements to our electricity system, and making smart policy decisions that move the country toward a clean energy future.
Renewable energy is growing rapidly and is already a significant source of electricity in many states and countries.
- The amount of electricity generated from renewable sources such as wind and solar power increased nearly four-fold in the United States from 2007 to 2012.
- Nine states currently generate 10 percent or more of their electricity from wind and solar power: Iowa (24%), South Dakota (24%), North Dakota (15%), Minnesota (14%), Colorado (12%), Kansas (11%), Idaho (11%), Oklahoma (11%), and Oregon (10%).
We have the tools to significantly ramp up renewable energy. Today's electricity system can accommodate much more wind and solar power.
- Wind and solar power are inherently variable sources of electricity. After all, the wind doesn't always blow and the sun doesn't always shine. To accommodate this variability, electricity grid operators use a variety of tools to maintain a reliable electricity supply—and can easily handle a much higher percentage of electricity from renewable sources.
If we make smart decisions today, renewable energy could reliably provide 80 percent of U.S. electricity by 2050.
- Renewable energy technologies available today—wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower—could collectively supply the vast majority of U.S. electricity in 2050, while meeting electricity demand every hour of the year in every region of the country.
- To accomplish it will require adding a high level of variable energy sources, with wind and solar alone generating 50 percent of U.S. electricity. Reliably integrating these resources may increase the complexity of the challenge, but does not pose insurmountable technical problems or significant costs. To get there, we need to make smart investments and policy decisions today that move the country toward a cleaner energy future.
The information and data presented in this infographic are based largely on the UCS short report, Ramping Up Renewables: Energy You Can Count On.
For more information, including additional data sources, please see the infographic methodology and data sources (PDF).
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