Generation from Nonhydro Renewables Expected to Eclipse Hydropower in 2014

For decades, hydropower has been the dominant renewable energy resource. In 2004, hydropower accounted for three times the generation of all nonhydro renewable generation combined (i.e., wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, landfill gas, and municipal solid waste). With recent robust growth in wind and solar, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects 2014 will be the first year that annual nonhydro renewable generation exceeds annual hydropower generation.

Key Details

  • Monthly generation from nonhydro renewables exceeded hydropower from September 2013 to April 2014
  • EIA figures include generation plants exceeding 1 MW in capacity; these figures do not consider the output of distributed PV
  • The growth of wind and solar is propelled by declining technology costs and favorable public policies (e.g., tax credits and renewable portfolio standards)
  • EIA forecasts nonhydro renewables will provide twice the generation as hydropower in 2040
  • In many parts of the United States, electric utilities deploy hydropower as a baseload or intermediate generation resource. Meanwhile, the fastest growing nonhydro renewable resources—solar and wind—are intermittent resources (e.g., utilities are unable to dispatch these resources)

Implications

The oft used disclaimer of “nonhydro renewables” may soon be retired. Not counting distributed PV, nonhydro renewables have crossed a significant threshold in materiality. However, with their intermittent nature, the operational complexity grid operators must manage to integrate these resources has also grown in materiality.

More Information

EIA: Nonhydro renewables now routinely surpass hydropower generation

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Contributing Authors

Paul Quinlan Clean Tech Manager

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