BOSTON -- In 2020, America produced almost four times as much renewable electricity from the sun and the wind as in 2011, according to a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group. Renewables on the Rise 2021: The rapid growth of renewables, electric vehicles and other building blocks of a clean energy future finds that if U.S. wind, solar and geothermal power continue to grow at the same 15% annual rate, renewables could meet the nation’s current electricity needs by 2035. This finding comes as leaders in Congress work to advance legislation that would invest in the nationwide transition to clean power, and nine states have already enacted legislation committing to 100% clean electricity.
“Renewable sources like wind and solar are poised to play a starring role in America’s energy future,” said Susan Rakov, chair of Environment America Research & Policy Center’s clean energy program. “And as these clean energy sources produce more and more of our power, they set the stage for other new technologies -- like electric cars and heat pumps -- to replace dirty and outdated ones, all while relying on clean power. That’s how we create a better, cleaner future.”
The report details progress over the past decade in six areas that will be key to transitioning to a future powered entirely by clean and renewable resources: solar, wind, efficiency, electric vehicles, battery storage and electric heat pumps.
Topline findings include:
America produces over 23 times as much solar power as in 2011, enough to power more than 12 million average American homes.
America has nearly tripled the amount of wind power it produces since 2011, enough to power more than 31 million homes. In 2020, wind accounted for 8.4% of the nation’s electricity.
In 2019, efficiency programs saved enough electricity to power more than 2.5 million homes.
From 2011 to 2020, the cumulative number of battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles sold in the U.S. grew 100-fold to nearly 1.7 million. Plug-in electric vehicle sales surpassed 2 million in 2021.
America’s battery storage capacity expanded more than 18-fold from 2011 to 2020 and grew by 67% in 2020 alone.
As the efficiency of heat pumps has improved, they have become an attractive option across the country. In 2015, 12% of all U.S. homes with heat used heat pumps, up from 8% a decade earlier.
Along with a national overview, the report highlights states that have made the most progress in adopting solar and wind energy; increasing battery storage capacity; improving energy efficiency; and transitioning to electric vehicles.
“States are locking into a clean-energy race to the top,” said Emma Searson, 100% Renewable Campaign director with Environment America Research & Policy Center. “As states prioritize clean energy technologies, they both realize the benefits and inspire their neighbors -- and the nation -- to pick up the pace.”
California, Texas and North Carolina saw the most solar power growth from 2011 to 2020, while Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa topped the charts for wind power growth. California, Texas and Illinois have added the most battery storage from 2011 to 2020.
In terms of progress beyond electricity generation: Maryland, Rhode Island and Massachusetts were the states with the most improvement in savings from electric energy efficiency programs from 2011 to 2019. California, New York and Florida top the rankings for both cumulative electric vehicle sales through 2020 and public EV charging ports.
“In this last decade, America has proven that we can power our homes, businesses and industry with clean energy. We’re on the cusp of a dramatic shift toward power that doesn’t pollute,” Searson said. “But we didn’t arrive here by magic; forward-thinking people and their legislators demanded it. As national leaders debate how best to invest in the future of our nation, they should take a cue from these states and focus on helping clean energy thrive."