EME 444
Global Energy Enterprise

Renewable Energy for Electricity

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About Renewable Energy Sources

Biomass, the subject of the first part of this lesson, is a widely used renewable energy source. As you learned earlier in the lesson, it constitutes over 10% of global TPES according to the IEA's 2016 Key World Energy Statistics and nearly 5% of U.S. TPES, according to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. As we have learned, it is processed in many different ways to produce a wide range of outputs for many kinds of applications, including heat for cooking, space heating and warming water; heat for industrial purposes; heat for electricity production; syngas; ethanol and biodiesel for transportation, and even methane for natural gas applications.

Other widely used renewable energy sources--hydro, wind and solar--are used almost exclusively for electricity generation. Energy from the sun also is used in solar hot water applications and other solar heating applications, including passive solar. But, its most common application is for electricity generation.

For the remainder of this lesson, and the following lesson, we will be considering renewable energy sources used to generate electricity: hydropower, then wind and solar (in the next lesson).

Renewable Energy for Electricity Generation

In their most recent International Energy Outlook (2016) with electricity projections, the EIA reports that renewable energy is the fastest-growing source of electricity generation (not just capacity!) in the IEO2016 Reference case through 2040. Overall, electricity generation from renewable energy sources is expected to increase 2.9% a year (up from 2.8% in the previous IEO report). In their 2016 Renewable Energy Medium-Term Market Report, which projects to 2021, the IEA projects that renewable electricity capacity will grow by 42% between 2015 and 2021, and renewable sources will account for more than 60% of additional generation between 2015 and 2021.

 World Net Electricity Generation by fuel. See link in caption for text version
World Net Electricity Generation by fuel, 2012 - 2040 (trillion kilowatt hours)
(Excel data available here)
Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2016, "Electricity."
 World Net Renewable Electricity Generation by fuel. See link in caption for text version
World Net Renewable Electricity Generation by fuel, 2012 - 2040 (trillion kilowatt hours)
(Excel data available here)
Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2016, "Electricity."

To Read Now

Visit the Energy Information Administration and open the "Electricity" section of the International Energy Outlook 2016 report. Read and browse as much as you like, but definitely read the "Overview" and "Renewable resources" sections.

Read the Executive Summary of the International Energy Agency's Renewable Energy Medium-Term Market Report 2016. Note that the IEA is referring to electricity whenever they refer to the "power sector."