Renewables Growing as Energy Insecurity Rises to Forefront of Policy Discussion
The energy discussion in America is evolving, and alternative energy sources are rising to fill voids in the traditional system. A recent report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) provides updated forecasts for the uptake of renewable energy sources.
As of 2021, renewable energy sources accounted for 20.1 percent of total US energy usage. Of the seven renewable energy sources measured by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the top three sources in 2021 were wind, hydro, and solar power, respectively.
Renewables’ share of the domestic mix has steadily grown over the last decade, and will almost certainly continue to climb in the coming years with the help of public demand and policies that promote their use and development. The success of renewables has led IEEFA to revise its forecasts on renewable energy. Previously, IEEFA predicted that by 2026, wind, solar, and hydropower would represent 30 percent of the domestic energy mix. Now, the prediction has risen by 3 points, with a new estimate of 33 percent by 2026.
This analysis follows those by other organizations, such as the EIA, which in March predicted that renewables would comprise 44 percent of the energy mix by 2050. Though the IEEFA’s analysis shows a more rapidly accelerating pace of renewable adoption, both organizations note steady increases in the coming years and decades.
The IEEFA stated in its analysis that this increase in renewables has been bolstered by “fossil fuel price volatility and energy security” issues that are “among the top concerns of executives and policymakers.” On the topic of fossil fuels, the same analysis estimates that natural gas electricity generation has “peaked” and that renewables like wind will fill the void of declining gas. Again, though less aggressive, the EIA also predicts that natural gas’ share of the energy mix will fall in the coming decades, from 37 percent in 2021 to 34 percent by 2050.
Though renewables are undeniably growing in use, natural gas remained the top fuel source for electricity generation in 2021. The fate of natural gas has also seemed to shift in recent weeks, as energy security in Europe led to the creation of a new partnership between the US and European Union that would require significant increases in liquefied natural gas exports from the US to Europe to replace Russian natural gas, which is being shunned after that country invaded Ukraine.
With the unpredictability of global alliances and politics, energy policy will continue to be at the forefront of discussion. It remains to be seen if the move to phase out fossil fuels in order to meet climate goals will continue to be the chosen path, or whether fossil fuels and natural gas, in particular, will remain a part of the global energy mix.