The Future of U.S. Renewable Energy Development
Local Obstacles and Opportunities
September 13, 2021DownloadsDownload Article
Over the past decade, the prevalence of renewable energy – particularly wind and solar – has expanded in dramatic fashion, and current net-zero goals set by governments and individual corporations have primed the clean energy landscape for even more growth. But this upward trajectory is far from assured.
Disputes over land use, environmental impacts, and regulatory hurdles are all potential obstacles to meeting ambitious renewable energy targets. With the right approach, the renewable energy industry can more effectively navigate community opposition while also better positioning the United States to meet its climate goals.
U.S. Renewables: All Signs Point Upward
U.S. wind capacity is forecast1 to increase by 291 gigawatts (GW) between 2020 and 2050 — enough to power over 58 million homes — while solar photovoltaic deployment is expected2 to reach 324 GW of new installations over just the next decade. Some of this growth is due to aggressive clean-energy mandates at the state level, in addition to federal incentives and supportive policies.
The private sector is also driving demand. In 2020, global corporate clean energy purchasing jumped 18 percent3. Falling prices for wind and solar have made these once-niche resources competitive with conventional power plants, and the long-term fixed price of power purchase agreements4 (PPAs) are attractive hedges against rising grid rates.
The Biden administration’s ambitious climate goals are slated to increase the share of renewable power in the U.S. energy system. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill recently passed by the Senate includes $65 billion in renewable energy transmission upgrades.
In keeping with President Biden’s whole-of-government approach to addressing climate change, the FY22 presidential budget request includes5 $2 billion for clean energy projects and $10 billion for clean energy research and development. Meanwhile, some in Congress hope to enact lucrative tax-credit extensions for wind and solar through reconciliation6.