Green Power Generated Almost All New Electric Capacity In 2017

<p>The numbers for the last year of energy production tell a complicated story about the battle for renewable power.</p>


May 23 2019, Updated 10:27 a.m. ET

There is some good news in regards to widespread renewable power in the United States. In 2017, 94.7 percent of new electric capacity generated in the country is from renewable energy sources, Engadget reports. On the surface this seems like good news, but it's actually a mixed bag. While renewable energy appears to be on the rise, it is in large part due to the decline of coal.

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According to Electrek, renewable energy sources provided 15.8GW out of 16.7GW of U.S. generating capacity, but the amount of energy created by utility scale fossil fuel production fell by 11.8GW as coal plants closed. 

Donald Trump's campaign and first year in office were focused on supporting the development of fossil fuel power; many of his supporters were hoping his plan for "clean coal" would mean job development in economically depressed areas. There has also been a number of actions taken by his administration to roll back environmental protections that would benefit oil and gas drilling companies. 

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The fact that renewable energy still managed to triumph in growth over fossil fuels is an exciting one. This can be seen as a positive—the move towards renewable energy is inevitable. But it also means that it is currently developing without government support. Though the numbers look good for 2017, when compared to other years, they're not what they could be.

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For example, in 2016, renewable energy creation at a utility-scale was 35 percent higher than it was in 2017. It was also a record year for solar power installations.

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Despite Trump's plans, there has been little growth in fossil fuel production; in fact, there has been very little building of facilities meant to process coal in the last twenty years in the U.S. But numbers for solar power installation are also down, indicating energy production is in something of a stalemate.

Another confusing trend is CO2 emissions for 2017. The U.S. dropped their Co2 emissions by one percent in the last year. Again, this sounds positive. But we have on average dropped 1.6 percent every year since 2005.

There are also indications that those levels will rise in 2018, as some of the White House's policies take firmer effect. If anything, these numbers indicate that dragging energy production into the past may be virtually impossible—but we'll really have to push to keep moving forward.

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