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Studies Show Renewable Energy Taking Off, but Federal Policies Needed to Keep Momentum, Science Group Says

Jan 28, 2009 - Union 0f Concerned Scientists

House Voting Today on Stimulus Package Including Energy Provisions

WASHINGTON (January 28, 2009) – Two recent reports documenting the rapid growth of renewable energy development in the United States show that state renewable electricity standards and federal tax incentives are effective policies. New federal initiatives, however, are necessary to ensure continued expansion, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

On Tuesday, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced that more wind power was installed in the United States in 2008 than ever before. The more than 8,300 megawatts (MW) of wind energy capacity—enough to provide power to more than 2 million average homes—installed last year was more than a 50 percent jump from 2007. Meanwhile the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) released a report last week that found renewable energy, excluding conventional hydroelectric power, represented the largest new capacity growth in 2007 for the first time. More than 8,600 MW of capacity was installed.

"If you build the right policies, clean energy will come," said Alan Nogee, Clean Energy Program director at UCS. "Renewable energy—led by wind—is finally exploding here in the United States, but there's still a long way to go. This growth shows that President Obama's economic recovery goal of doubling renewable energy use in the next two years is achievable."

The EIA study noted that 2007 was the fourth year in a row that renewable energy's portion of total power generation increased, but non-hydro renewables still only accounted for 2.5 percent of total electricity generation that year. And, although the United States became the world's largest wind power producer in 2008, continued growth of the renewable energy industry—and tens of thousands of jobs—are dependent on enactment of the clean energy provisions of President Obama's economic recovery package, Nogee said.

Today the House will vote on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which would quadruple investment in energy efficiency for buildings and appliances and boost research and development funding for renewable energy sources by 225 percent, according to the Center for American Progress. A new Renewable Energy Loan Guarantee program would provide $8 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects.

"Congress can either choose to promote job expansion in the wind industry, which currently employs more than 80,000, or stand by as tens of thousands in the industry lose their jobs due to the credit crunch and the expiration of the wind energy tax credit at the end of this year," Nogee said. He called on Congress to pass a multiyear extension of the tax credit and restructure it to account for the recession, allowing companies to use it even if they have no tax liabilities.

As early as mid-February, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee may begin hearings on a federal renewable electricity standard, which would require utilities to obtain a specific percentage of their power from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and biomass, by a certain date. This type of standard, which 28 states and the District of Columbia already have adopted, has helped create a market in which renewable energy projects have thrived.

Nogee urged Congress to pass a national standard requiring utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025, a target that President Obama supported during his campaign. "State standards have helped renewable energy break records in installed capacity," Nogee said, "but we need a federal standard to help the economy recover quickly and transform the nation's energy system over the long run."

In addition to fostering clean energy development, renewable electricity standards help stabilize and even lower energy bills for consumers, according to a number of studies. A national standard also would generate well-paying local jobs and help fight global warming, according to UCS analyses, other independent studies, and government reports.

"Renewable energy is a bright spot in our woefully dreary economic picture," said Nogee. "Now's the time to stoke the development, not snuff it out. Congress knows how to do it – more tax incentives and a strong national renewable electricity standard."


The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C. For more information, go to

The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading U.S. science-based nonprofit organization working for a healthy environment and a safer world. Founded in 1969, UCS is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and also has offices in Berkeley, Chicago and Washington, D.C.


Updated: 2003/07/28