Clean energy boosters blast feds’ forecast

WASHINGTON — Clean energy enthusiasts on Monday said the government is lowballing the industry’s potential.

In its new long-range forecast, the Energy Information Administration projects that while wind, solar, hydropower and biomass will grow significantly over the next three decades, those renewable energy sources still will make up just a sliver — 16 percent — of the nation’s electricity by 2040.

That is higher than renewable power’s 12 percent contribution in 2012, with the EIA crediting the projected growth to federal tax credits, state mandates and, eventually, relatively low cost.

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But it still is unrealistically low, said Ken Bossong, executive director of the not-for-profit Sun Day Campaign, which promotes sustainable energy technologies.

“Even if government support lessens in future years, competitive and ever-lower prices coupled with the pressures of climate change virtually assure that renewables will continue to grow at rapid rates that substantially exceed EIA’s projections,” Bossong said.

Bossong believes renewable energy sources are on track to make up a quarter of the nation’s electrical generation by 2040, based on its growth trend from the past decade. Looming climate change policies, including limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power utilities, are likely to further propel growth in zero-emission renewables, Bossong added.

(Energy Information Administration)
(Energy Information Administration)

By 2040, the EIA expects natural gas will provide the bulk of the nation’s electricity — some 35 percent — with coal in second place, providing 32 percent of U.S. power. Nuclear power is set to provide 16 percent of U.S. electricity by 2040, the agency says.

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The agency’s annual energy outlook makes prognostications based on current policies, including assumptions that renewable tax credits will expire on Dec. 31 as scheduled.

The EIA is set to explore alternative scenarios — such as the potential for renewable power under more tax credits, carbon emission limits and clean energy mandates — early next year. The forecast released Monday provides a baseline for examining the consequences of potential government policies and actions.