In 2020, the US produced almost four times as much clean electricity from solar and wind as in 2011, according to a new report from Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group.

US EV and clean energy growth

The report, “Renewables on the Rise 2021: The rapid growth of renewables, electric vehicles and other building blocks of a clean energy future,” finds that if US wind, solar, and geothermal power continue to grow at the same 15% annual rate, renewables could meet the US’s current electricity demands by 2035. That’s US President Joe Biden’s target year to have achieved an entirely fossil-free electrical grid.

The report details progress over the past 10 years in six areas that will be key to transitioning to clean energy: electric vehicles, solar, wind, energy efficiency, battery storage, and electric heat pumps. Here are the key points for each:

Electric vehicles: In 2011, just over 16,000 battery and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles had been sold in the US. As of December 2020, that number had grown a hundred-fold to nearly 1.7 million vehicles. By mid-2021, cumulative plug-in electric vehicle sales had surpassed 2 million.

Solar: The US produces over 23 times as much solar power than it did in 2011, enough to power more than 12 million average American homes. 

Wind: The US has nearly tripled the amount of wind power it produces since 2011, generating enough to power over 31 million homes. 

Energy efficiency: Electric efficiency programs across the US saved over 17% more energy in 2019 than in 2011, as states ramped up their investments in efficiency. In 2018, these programs saved enough electricity to power more than 2.5 million homes.

Battery storage: In 2020, the US had over 1.7 gigawatts of battery energy storage. Battery storage capacity grew more than 18-fold from 2011 to 2020 and grew by 67% in 2020 alone.

Heat pumps: The efficiency of electric heat pumps has improved to the point where they are now an attractive and realistic option for heating and cooling homes across the country. In 2015, 12% of all US homes with heat used heat pumps, up from just 8% a decade earlier. Shipments of efficient air-source heat pumps from US manufacturers nearly doubled between 2011 and 2020, increasing by 10% in 2020 alone.

But let’s keep it all in perspective.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), the US went from producing 125,820 gigawatt-hours of wind and solar electricity in 2011 to 470,141 gigawatt-hours in 2020. Geothermal generation stayed largely constant and only increased slightly in 2020, to 16,930 GWh.

And as the Washington Post points out:

According to Ember, a London-based think tank, the United States still produces only 12% of its electricity from wind and solar — putting it in the middle of the pack globally. The percentage in both the United Kingdom and Germany is more than double that.

Standout states

California, New York, and Florida are top for both cumulative electric vehicle sales through 2020 and public EV charging ports. 

California, Texas, and North Carolina saw the most solar growth from 2011 to 2020, while Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa led for wind power.

California, Texas, and Illinois have added the most battery storage from 2011 to 2020. 

Maryland, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts saw the most improvement in savings from electric energy efficiency programs from 2011 to 2019.

Emma Searson, 100% Renewable campaign director with Environment America Research & Policy Center, said:

In this last decade, America has proven that we can power our homes, businesses and industry with clean energy. We’re on the cusp of a dramatic shift toward power that doesn’t pollute.

But we didn’t arrive here by magic; forward-thinking people and their legislators demanded it. As national leaders debate how best to invest in the future of our nation, they should take a cue from these states and focus on helping clean energy thrive.

Environment America put together some very cool interactives to demonstrate growth in each state. See how your state is faring here.

Read more: Texas leads the US in wind power — and now it’s ramping up solar, too


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About the Author

Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in White River Junction, Vermont. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at michelle@9to5mac.com. Check out her personal blog.