Tuesday, December 11, 2012

2008-2012: The Historic Era of Simultaneous Gas & Renewable Energy Booms That Rewrote The Record Books

Had the historic USA gas and renewable energy booms from 2008 to 2012 taken place in China, the Chinese government would be celebrating a successful 5-year plan.

In the USA, the simultaneous extraordinary booms in natural gas and especially wind and solar are the product of a mix of public incentives and private entrepreneurship that never was planned.

As 2012 comes to a close, the US this year will install record amounts of new solar, new wind, and produce another record amount of natural gas.  This year's record gas production breaks the record just set last year and is especially remarkable given the supply glut collapsed the price of natural gas.

Over the five-year period, gas has gone from shortage and the rush to build LNG import facilities to glut and a push to export LNG.

Over the five-year period, solar has grown from a total of less than 500 megawatts installed in the entire country to installing 3,000 megawatts of new capacity just this year.  At the end of 2012, America will have about 7,000 megawatts of solar generation installed, a 14-fold increase in the 5 years.

Over the five-year period, wind capacity has more than doubled, going from 25,000 megawatts to more than 55,000 megawatts, with 2009 and 2012 being especially good years for new wind farms.

The historic gas-renewable energy boom era of 2008 to 2012 rewrote the record books.  The era also proves that gas and renewable energy can boom at the same time.

Shale gas success need not mean renewable energy failure or the reverse.  Claims that shale gas would destroy renewable energy have not been true in this five year period and need not be in the next five years.

And just consider the huge benefits produced by the gas and renewable energy booms and the compelling reasons to fuel them further.

The booms have brought to market declining costs and prices for gas and renewable energy and yielded a bonanza of affordable energy for consumers.  Heating costs are down.  Electricity prices are stable or down, compared to 2008.

The booms have created directly and indirectly hundreds of thousands of construction and permanent jobs.

And the gas-renewable energy booms have slashed toxic air pollution like mercury, lead, arsenic, decreased soot that sickens tens of thousands, and amazingly rolled back US carbon emissions to 1992 levels.  America has cut climate pollution more than any nation in the world since 2006, thanks largely to the gas and renewable energy booms and a big increase in energy efficiency.

To maintain and grow this gas and renewable energy recipe for economic and environmental success going forward, all it takes is a bit of wise policy like passing an extension of the wind production tax credit and The Natural Gas Act, both of which have stalled in Congress due to Republican opposition.

Blessed with federal policy stability, and support in 29 states, as well as decreasing total costs, solar will set a new record in 2013 by installing 4,000 megawatts.  Cursed by policy uncertainty, wind generation will stall next year, and natural gas transportation will make glacial progress.

The recipe for keeping both the gas and renewable energy booms going is clear.  The benefits to the nation of doing so are enormous.

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