Where does your region rank? New report documents steady rise in renewables


By: SGN Staff


Quick Take: The Union of Concerned Scientists is out with a new report that documents the gradual rise of renewables around the world. See below for links to a summary article and to the full report. I noticed a few surprises:

  • As always, Denmark ranks first in renewables penetration, which has now reached 30%
  • Iowa and South Dakota rank second in the world in renewables penetration at 24%. Who knew?
  • North Dakota and Minnesota are climbing fast and may soon pass Portugal and Spain to reach third
  • Kansas, Colorado, Idaho, and Oklahoma are at parity with Germany at 11%

In brief, the U.S. has quietly been catching up to those parts of the world that have more mind share as renewables leaders.

Intermittent renewables begin to create grid stability challenges once penetration goes north of 10%. So it is great to see which regions have successfully managed those challenges. Now we know where to look for lessons learned. - Jesse Berst


The non-profit science advocacy organization Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) points to the rapid growth of renewables and says we not only have the tools in hand to significantly speed up that growth but that the electricity system can handle much more wind and solar power than it is carrying now.


In its report, Ramping Up Renewables: Energy You Can Count On, the UCS says grid operators use several tools to ensure a reliable electricity supply and "can easily handle a much higher percentage of electricity from renewable sources."


Among those tools are:


·         Multiple wind power sources, which take advantage of wind resources over a wide geographic area to help maintain a steady flow of wind power

·         Accurate forecasting which allows grid operators to anticipate wind and solar output and adjust other electricity sources as needed to accommodate that output

·         Additional power sources such as hydropower to fill in when wind and solar power availability dips

·         A dynamic grid, meaning electric grids are designed to deal with variations in power supply and demand because no source, including coal and gas, is 100% reliable


The report also says an energy mix of 80% renewables is achievable by 2050, and that the tools are available to do it today: wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower. That will require adding a lot more variable energy sources which will further complicate the challenge, "...but does not impose insurmountable technical problems or significant costs."


You might also be interested in ...

Download the UCS report

Wind penetration crosses 10% threshold in nine states. Grid problems to follow?


Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid News.com, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.