Production, demand for renewable energy increasing

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Jan. 29, 2009, at 1:12 p.m. CST

The U.S. electric power industry is increasing its capacity using renewable energy sources more than any other resource, according to the Energy Information Administration's latest report, titled "Electric Power Industry 2007: Year in Review." In addition, the report, which is based on the most recently available data, states that wood and wood-derived fuels continue to be the largest source of renewable generation.

The EIA said in 2007, for the first time, renewable energy sources (other than conventional hydroelectric capacity) accounted for the largest portion of capacity additions in the electric power industry. Those sources contributed 2.5 percent, or 105 million megawatt-hours, of total net electric generation in 2007, marking the fourth consecutive year in which the share of total net generation from renewable energy sources has increased. Net generation from renewable sources grew by 9 percent in 2007.

Of the total contribution from renewable sources, the EIA said wood and wood-derived fuels accounted for 39 million megawatt-hours, or 0.9 percent, of total net generation in 2007. Wood and wood- derived fuels continued to be the largest sources of renewable generation, accounting for 37.1 percent of total net renewable generation, excluding conventional hydroelectric generation.

This increase in electric power generation capacity from renewable sources is due in part to states encouraging utilities to adopt green pricing programs, which allow consumers to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources and pay for renewable energy development. According to the EIA, 835,651 retail consumers were reported to be purchasing electricity under green pricing programs in 2007 and residential consumers accounted for 92.5 percent of the total number of green pricing consumers.

The EIA said all states, with the exception of Louisiana, reported providing electric service under green pricing programs in 2007. Texas led the nation with 17 percent of all green pricing consumers, Oregon ranked second with 12 percent, followed by California, Colorado, and Maryland each with 7 percent.

In addition to purchasing power, more consumers are contributing power to the grid. According to the EIA, the number of consumers in net metering programs, which allow for sending excess generation to the grid in exchange for credit, increased more than ten-fold from 4,472 in 2002 to 48,820 in 2007 across 47 states and the District of Columbia. The majority of contributors (72 percent) came from California where 34,910 customers reported participating in net metering programs.