We can lower the amount of greenhouses gases produced by electric power, which now generates 36 percent of our carbon emissions. Emissions will grow dramatically as the demand for electricity increases unless we significantly change the way we produce power through new investments in renewable energy sources and advanced-coal energy production.
Specifically, we propose a new national renewable electricity standard to require 25 percent of energy produced in the United States to come from renewable sources by 2025, increasing distributed renewable electricity generation and facilitating investment in renewable energy by improving the structure of production tax credits and low interest loans. While non-hydro renewable energy is a very small part of our energy equation right now, providing only about 2 percent of total U.S. electricity capacity, it has great potential to play an important role in a low-carbon economy. The policy framework, however, is critical.
The Energy Information Agency reference case—essentially a business-as-usual projection that takes into account projected technology improvements, but not improvements that are the result of new policies—still shows non-hydro renewable energy accounting for only about 2 percent of electricity by 2030.
To move off that tepid path, we need a smart set of polices to propel the sector forward. This makes sense for both environmental and economic reasons. Renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal produce not just very few greenhouse gas emissions but more jobs, too. A 2007 analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests that a 20 percent national renewable electricity standard by 2020 would create 185,000 jobs, save consumers $10.5 billion on energy bills through 2020, and reduce CO2 by 223 million metric tons a year.
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