The U.S. is now generating a historic amount of power from renewable energy, but policy issues and a slowdown in development means the country is on pace to fall short of its renewable targets.
Right now the U.S. renewable capacity is around 55% less than what it needs to be to meet the energy transition goals set by the Biden Administration.
That's the word from the Clean Power Quarterly 2021 Q4 Market Report, released this week by the American Clean Power Association (ACP).
The report shows that the U.S. surpassed more than 200 gigawatts of total operating utility-scale clean power capacity in 2021, a new record -- but one that needs to be rapidly outpaced over the coming years if the nation is to reach the goals set by the Biden Administration.
“Surpassing over 200 gigawatts of clean energy is a significant milestone for the United States and shows that we can achieve even more with strong public policy support for the industry,” said Heather Zichal, the CEO of ACP. “Although the U.S. has reached this incredible achievement, more needs to be done, at a faster pace, to reach the climate goals and targets our country needs to achieve. We urge Congress to take action to create a clean energy future that will help create more good-paying American jobs and combat the climate crisis.”
While 2021 was supposed to be a record year for installations the total number of renewable projects declined compared to 2020. That 3% drop meant that some 11.4 gigawatts worth of projects (enough to power 8.8 million homes -- if my math is right) slipped to 2022 or 2023 due to a variety of issues, according to the American Clean Power Association.
The ongoing trade war with China and regulatory uncertainty around the price of imported panels played a role in slowing solar growth, while the lack of tax credits for wind projects slowed development of those energy projects.
That's why it's important for the U.S. to pass more sweeping renewable energy initiatives to promote the industry's growth and mitigate the worst impacts of climate change if global temperatures keep rising because of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel production and use.
In all, developers spent $39 billion on clean energy projects including utility scale solar, wind, and energy storage. Wind development edged out solar power with 12.7 gigawatts of production for the year while solar installations reached 12.4 gigawatts.
New energy storage and battery projects accounted for another 2.6 gigawatts of installations. And these projects are perhaps the most important, because they allow for renewable power to be stored and used as needed rather than just when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing.
And these projects are flipping the switch on more than just electric power -- they're also charging up economies around the country. Nearly 1,000 new clean energy projects are under development for 2022.