How Far Has the Renewable Energy Industry Come in the Past 15 Years?
The renewable energy industry has experienced numerous changes over the past 15 years. As the nation’s longest serving green power marketer and a pioneer in the field, Green Mountain Energy Company developed this infographic that reflects the growth of the renewable energy industry, its contribution to the U.S. economy, and what the future could hold.
As depicted by the infographic above, the growth of the renewable energy industry has had a significant economic impact. The Brookings Institute found that the U.S. clean energy sector grew at a rate nearly twice that of the overall economy during the worst of the recession and added more than half a million jobs from 2003 to 2010. Overall, the clean energy economy employs more than 2.7 million workers, which is more than the fossil fuel industry. In fact, jobs in the clean energy sector have outpaced the fossil fuel industry by a 3-to-1 margin, according to a national study by the Center for American Progress. To put it simply, every dollar invested into clean energy creates three times as many jobs as the same dollar invested into oil and gas. Due to this, the renewable industry offers more opportunities and better pay for skilled workers than the national economy as a whole.
Our need to generate enough supply to meet our growing energy needs, customers who want cleaner choices, and forward-looking public policy drive demand for renewable energy. To keep pace with demand, wind farms today produce 28 times more renewable energy than they did in 1997, and output continues to increase with technology improvements and a growing number of wind projects. According to the American Wind Energy Association, jobs supported by the wind energy industry could grow from 75,000 jobs today to as many as 500,000 jobs if the U.S. were to transition to generating 20 percent of its energy from wind. And that’s just one renewable energy resource!
So, just how far can renewable energy go in the near future?
Solar is heating up. If we installed solar panels on the roof of every eligible house and business in the U.S., the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates we could produce 800 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of solar energy, enough power to provide 1/5 of U.S. annual electricity needs.
What about clean transportation? By 2027, 12 million Americans are projected to have traded in their conventional gas-powered cars for electric vehicles, which would avoid the consumption of more than 6,800 million gallons of gasoline and save drivers $20.9 billion in fuel costs each year. That’s a lot of money left in the bank.
The state of the renewable energy industry is brighter than ever before. We’ve come a long way since 1997, but we have much further to go in the following 15 years. With increasing awareness of our individual and collective impact on the environment and customer demand for cleaner renewable energy products, our nation is headed in the right direction.
 Based on electric vehicle penetration, fuel cost, and mileage data provided by the U.S. Departments of Energy and Transportation.