Clean Energy Technologies Advance in United States

A windmill stands in front of wind turbines of the Smoky Hill Wind Farm near Ellsworth, Kansas, shown in February 2013.
A windmill stands in front of wind turbines of the Smoky Hill Wind Farm near Ellsworth, Kansas, shown in February 2013.

Washington,
07 January 2014

Over the last five years, American inventors and investors have made significant progress in developing and deploying key clean energy technologies, supported by the policies of the Obama administration.

U.S. electricity production from solar and wind has doubled, and in 2012, U.S. carbon pollution fell to its lowest level in nearly 20 years, according to a January 6 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) news release. Clean energy technology costs continue to come down, while these technologies produce more energy than ever before, the release said.

“More clean energy. Greater energy security. Less carbon pollution. Those are the facts,” said Dan Utech, President Obama’s top climate and energy adviser.

WIND ENERGY

In 2012, wind was America’s largest source of new electricity generation capacity, accounting for 43 percent of all new installations, DOE said. Altogether, the United States has deployed about 60 gigawatts of wind power — enough to power 15 million homes. This growth in wind deployment has spurred more U.S. manufacturing in this sector and, according to the American Wind Energy Association, by 2012 there were well over 80,000 workers employed in wind-related jobs in the United States.

Supported by U.S. government investments, generation of electricity from wind and solar has more than doubled, DOE said, and the costs of solar and wind technologies have come down significantly.

SOLAR ENERGY

Since 2008, the price of solar panels has fallen by 75 percent, and solar installations have increased by a factor of 13, DOE said. U.S. government support has helped to launch some of the largest solar projects in the world.

Renewable energy permitting on federal lands has gone from virtually zero to nearly 50 approved solar, wind and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands since 2009, including associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids. When built, these projects will add up to more than 13,300 megawatts — enough energy to power 4.6 million homes.

BETTER VEHICLES

Thanks to U.S. government investments and fuel economy standards, the United States has a more fuel-efficient vehicle fleet that will continue to improve, DOE said. Under new fuel economy standards proposed by the Obama administration, average fuel efficiency for cars and trucks would nearly double, reaching an average performance equivalent of nearly 55 miles per gallon (4.28 liters per 100 kilometers) by 2025.

More efficient cars and trucks are already rolling off the assembly line, thanks in part to these standards, the release said. When the standards take full effect in 2025, they will reduce U.S. oil imports by 2.2 million barrels per day and cut carbon pollution by 6 billion metric tons, which is roughly equivalent to all emissions from the United States in 2013.

In addition to improved fuel economy, advanced vehicles are gaining traction, DOE said. For example, during the first 11 months of 2013, Americans bought more than 87,000 plug-in electric vehicles, nearly twice as many as sold during the same period in 2012, and the number of these vehicles on the road surpassed 100,000 for the first time.

The market for plug-in electric vehicles has grown much faster than the early market for hybrids, DOE said, with prices falling and export markets opening up. Since 2008, it said, the cost of electric vehicle batteries — which drive the economics of electric vehicles — has dropped by 50 percent.