Recovery Act Will Have Doubled American Renewable Power by 2012

August 27, 2010

According to a study unveiled today by Energy Secretary Chu and VP Joe Biden, the US is on-track to achieve the three major renewable energy goals that the Energy Department set out to achieve with the $90 billion in Recovery Act investments in science, technology and innovation projects across the country.

1. Make solar power as cheap as dirty energy by 2015
2. Make electric vehicles as cheap as gas ones by 2015
3. Double US renewable energy generation and manufacturing by 2012

All three goals are on track.

The Recovery Act funding for renewable energy will probably go down in history as truly changing America. Only three Senate Republicans crossed the line to vote with the Democrats to pass it. Collins and Snowe survived the wrath of Republican voters – in 55% renewably powered Maine. Arlen Specter didn’t. He will be gone in January, but he has a lot to be proud of in standing up to the Party of No on renewable energy.

1. Cheap solar. The goal was to bring down the cost of solar power to become competitive with dirty energy prices. As a result of Recovery Act investments, the cost of solar energy is forecast to drop by half between 2009 and 2015, through implementation of the latest solar technologies.

The cost of power from rooftop solar panels is expected to drop from $0.21 per kWh in 2009 to $0.10 per kWh in 2015, about the nationwide average for household electricity rates.

As a result of investments made in the Recovery Act, by 2015, utility-scale solar, currently $0.13 per kWh is also expected to be on a par with wholesale prices of $0.06 a kWh

2. Cheap electric vehicles. The lifetime cost of electric vehicles will be on-par with that of its non-electric counterpart, by cutting the cost of batteries for electric vehicles by 70 percent between 2009 and 2015.

This means that the cost of batteries for the typical all-electric vehicle will fall from $33,000 to $10,000, and the cost of typical plug-in hybrid batteries will drop from $13,000 to $4,000. At those battery costs, electric-drive cars actually will actually be less expensive over the life of the car (beyond 2015) than similar non-electric vehicles.

The innovations funded will reduce battery weights 33% by 2015 to 222 kilograms, so that less energy is wasted in moving an electric vehicle with the old heavier battery. Battery lifetimes are being lengthened, to last 14 years, instead of today’s 4 years.

3. Doubling renewable energy. US renewable energy generation is on target to double by 2012, with over $23 billion in ARRA funds installing generation capacity from renewables like wind, solar, and geothermal. The US is on track to get 58 Gigawatts of its electricity from renewable energy by 2012; double what it had installed until the passage of the Recovery Act. As much renewable power is being installed in these 3 years as over the previous 30 years.

Until now, the US only manufactured a paltry 8% of global renewable energy needs such as turbines, batteries, solar panels and inverters. The Recovery Act investments have doubled renewable energy manufacturing to 14%, probably the easiest of these lofty goals to achieve.

The Department of Energy investments are going to a variety of science, technology and innovation projects across the country, ranging from building a nationwide smart energy grid, to investments in innovations in cutting edge solar technologies, batteries for electric vehicles and new techniques for renewable energy storage that we’ve covered here.