Renewable Energy Generation Climbs in 2008, Fossil Fuels Dip

Renewable Energy Generation Climbs in 2008, Fossil Fuels Dip

Non-hydro renewable energy increased 17.6 percent in 2008 compared to the year before, according to new figures released this week by the Energy Information Administration.

In comparison, electricity generation from coal and natural gas declined by 1.1 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively. Overall electricity generation declined 1 percent in 2008, most likely due to the economy.

Non-hydro renewables, which includes wind, solar, geothermal and biomass, accounted for about 3 percent of total generation, up from 2.5 percent in 2007.

Much of the growth in non-hydro renewable energy generation was spurred by the wind and solar sectors, which increased in 2008 by a robust 51 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

Despite the boom overall, the recession and tight credit markets are setting renewable energy up for weaker 2009. The wind and solar trade associations predict a slower first half of 2009 relative to 2008, according to Ken Bossong, executive director of Sun Day Campaign, a Maryland-based nonprofit that promotes renewable energy technologies.

"But based on the projects I'm reading about that are going to come online, I still see some growth," Bossong said, estimating wind and solar will each still enjoy generation growth rates of about 25 percent in 2009. He also sees a larger generation increase for geothermal due to projects that will be up and running this year and next.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the stimulus package is in the early stages of reviving interest in wind and solar projects. The package includes several provisions meant to fulfill President Barack Obama's goal of doubling renewable electricity generation in the U.S. in three years. The provisions include a loan guarantee program, 30 percent investment tax credits and 30 percent installation grants.

"Wind power" -- CC licensed by Flickr user Caveman 92223.