Renewables Get Cost Competitive

Rising petroleum prices along with rising production of bio-based fuels are changing the cost picture, according to a new report.

Published on: Sep 19, 2006
Renewable resources provide about 6% of total U.S. energy these days, but that could be changing according to a new report from the Worldwatch Intitute and the Center for American Progress. The report - American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security - offers a look at renewables.

According to the report, new technologies that harness renewables are, or soon will be, economically competitive with fossil fuels. As production of renewables rise, the cost of production tends to decline. Since 2000, global wind energy generation has more than tripled; solar cell production has risen six-fold; production of fuel ethanol from crops has more than doubled; and biodiesel production is up four fold. The cumulative investment in renewable energy since 1995 is nearly $180 billion.

The report notes that rising oil prices combined with "the security risks of petroleum dependence" and rising environmental costs has become more apparent. The report notes several finding including:

• One-fourth of U.S. land area has winds powerful enough to generate electricity as cheaply as natural gas and coal, and the solar resources of just seven Southwest states could provide 10 times the current electric generating capacity.

• All but four U.S. states now have incentives in place to promote renewable energy, while more than a dozen have enacted new renewable energy laws in the past few years.

• California gets 31% of its electricity from renewable resources; 12% of this comes from non-hydro sources including wind and geothermal energy.

• Texas now has the country's largest collection of wind generators.

• Iowa produces enough ethanol that, if consumed in-state, would meet half the state's gasoline requirements.

Yet the report notes the U.S. is not keeping up with other countries. Germany, Spain and Japan are considered leaders in this technology. You can learn more by reading the report, just click on the link above.