Clean-Energy Growth Outpacing Predictions
NEW YORK — Clean energy sources are growing much faster, and carbon emission reductions are larger than were predicted a decade ago.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council's fifth annual energy report, in 2016 the nation's installed solar energy capacity was 46 times greater than the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted, and wind power capacity was 350 percent more than forecast.
And according to Amanda Levin, co-author of the report, the benefits of moving away from fossil fuels are exceeding the predictions as well.
"Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are declining,” Levin said. “And at the same time, we have seen energy costs as a function of spending fall to record lows.”
She added that clean energy is also one of the fastest-growing sources of new jobs and contributes billions of dollars to the U.S. economy every year.
The pace of clean energy growth also is accelerating. Levin said in 2016, the U.S. added 14 gigawatts of solar capacity.
"That is almost twice as much solar added in a single year than we've ever added before,” she said. "That is enough solar capacity to power almost 5 to 6 million homes."
Last year, for the first time, wind and solar energy accounted for more than 10 percent of all monthly electricity generation in the United States.
And the cost of new, clean energy infrastructure has been falling. Levin said an annual report on the expected cost of new generating facilities found that, in the United States today, it cost about $32 per megawatt hour to build new wind power capacity.
"Gas is closer to about $48,” she said. "So it is $16 a megawatt hour cheaper to build a new wind farm in the U.S. than it is to build a new gas plant."
Levin said she believes the constantly improving economics of clean energy are likely to keep the momentum going, despite new political support for fossil fuels in Washington.