The U.S. electric grid is changing thanks to new market opportunities, cleaner and more-efficient technologies, and evolving consumer preferences, according to a recent renewable energy report from Pew’s clean energy initiative. The study documents how the power grid is transforming—and what the future of clean energy might look like.
In particular, three graphs from the report highlight some key reasons behind the national shift toward renewable energy.
State and federal policies have spurred this dramatic decline:
Energy is increasingly produced at or near the place where it is consumed. This advanced capability is commonly referred to as distributed generation.
Net metering—which allows customers to generate electricity on-site, deliver it to the local grid, and offset the power they consume, thereby reducing their charges—has helped foster the spread of rooftop solar and other distributed generation sources.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the number of net-metered customers has grown by 50 percent annually since 2009, from 70,000 to more than 482,000 customers by the end of 2013.
Although policy has propelled the shift toward distributed generation, innovative breakthroughs have also played a critical role by bringing a range of new technologies to the marketplace. Scientific know-how has led to improvements in energy generation, increased efficiency, better management to allow the grid to absorb more distributed power production, and greater consumer choice.
More efficient and renewable resources are filling the void as coal and nuclear power recede:
For more on the recent rise of clean energy in the U.S., read our report America’s Electric Grid: Growing Cleaner, Cheaper, and Stronger.
Phyllis Cuttino directs and Jessica Lubetsky manages Pew’s clean energy initiative.