The net generation of America’s non-hydroelectric renewable resources eclipsed conventional hydropower for the first year-long period in the nation’s history in 2014, according to a report released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration this month.
The “Electric Power Monthly” report, which details data through December 2014, showed that non-hydro renewables — wind, solar, geothermal, landfill gas and biomass — had a net generation of 281,060 GWh (or 6.9% of the nation’s total energy) in 2014, while conventional hydropower accounted for 258,749 GWh (6.3%).
While hydro is still the single largest renewable contributor to America’s energy mix, contributing an average of 271,846 GWh annually over the past decade, its dominance has slipped due to an emphasis on developing other renewables and ongoing droughts in the western U.S., which caused a drop of 8,000 GWh in California alone through 2014.
EIA said last May that it expects the output of all renewables, including hydropower, to increase through 2040, with nuclear, coal, petroleum liquid and other forms flat-lining or decreasing.
EIA cited the United States’ emphasis on reducing carbon emissions and both state and federal legislation as the biggest contributors to green energy’s growth.
Key amongst these policies are state renewable portfolio standards (RPS) — many of which have been amended in recent years to include eligibility for larger hydropower plants. Tax credit extensions for hydroelectricity and other renewables will also be a significant factor in their development, AEO2014 said.
The development of American hydropower has been a point of emphasis in recent months, with the Department of Energy announcing a plan to set long-term goals for the sector’s growth last April.