EIA data shows wind & solar provide only 3.2% of U.S. 2016 energy

Submitted by Larry Hamlin

A recent EIA report  on energy production shows that wind and solar despite receiving tens of billions in government subsidies provided only 3.2% of U.S. energy in year 2016.


The EIA energy data shows that fossil, nuclear and hydro provided more than 90% of 2016 U.S. energy production with rising petroleum and natural gas use while coal use is declining.

While the mainstream media continues to hype the role of decades long heavily government subsidized renewable energy the reality of U.S. and global energy use continues to be highly dependent upon fossil, nuclear and hydro energy resources.

Original Report

110 thoughts on “EIA data shows wind & solar provide only 3.2% of U.S. 2016 energy

    • Well they better get a move on increasing that number.
      An article in this morning’s San Jose Murky news; had a total nut job story by a journalist who clearly knows nothing of technology.
      Her story touts a new breakthrough in energy for remotely charging Electric Car batteries, … like while they are whizzing down the road at 650 Tesla horsepower.
      Evidently a Stanford Professor’s breakthrough, along with one of his students.
      They charge your (now smaller) EV car battery using electromagnetic radiation, as you drive along the road.
      Now very carefully engineered and optimized Switching power supplies for computers, are able to remotely ( mm) transmit 60 Hz power line RF into 12 V or 5 V or whatever to run your computer, and achieve 80% power conversion efficiency.
      So for every 5 GigaWatts of Electricity generation, powering such computers, you waste one GW in totally waste heat, and global warming.
      So these maroons are going to charge your Tesla battery while you drive along the road.
      Well It’s no sweat the receive one microwatt of RF power from a 50 KW Radio station, some distance away, but these guys would build the transmit antenna into the roads (all of the roads), so you might even get 1% efficiency.
      So just think about all of that electric power that is being radiated along roads on which your Chevy Volt is NOT travelling. These guys see the end of the internal combustion engine.
      Now just for kicks, image all of the radio-frequency interference all of this ziggerwatt radiated energy is going to create world wide.
      Well I intend to make sure that this particular journalist does become aware of “The Rest of the Story”.

  1. Cue the false narrative from warmunists about oil and gas getting massive subsidies, and ignoring all the income the US Govt gets from oil gas and coal leasing, in 3, 2, 1…

  2. Set aside farms and ranches, perhaps national parks, to erect windmill gauntlets and photovoltaic blights. We can reach 4.0% through shared responsibility and selective sacrifice.

  3. Well, it is actually measurable, unlike the “warmest year ever” claims that are within the error range of the thermometers. Remember, this is a sacrifice to Gaia, not energy production./s

    • Cool! A country volunteering to show the rest of the world what it’s like to revert to the Stone Age. I’m interested to see how that turns out for them.
      Okay, I went a little overboard there. Windmills were big as recent as the 11th – 17th centuries, not the Stone Age. Sorry for the exaggeration.

      • Not really the stone age, as Norway is lucky to have 99% of its power from dams and many houses are already heated by electricity. They even have plans to turn all cars to electric, as the 40% extra power from oil products only needs 15% more hydro/wind power, as batteries + electromotor have a much better yield than oil products burning in a conventional motor. That 15% can be from wind by themselves or from Denmark/Germany if these have excess wind power.
        Norway is one of the few countries in the world that in principle can power everything by renewables and even wind there may make sense: hydro dams are easely and fast to regulate and make the perfect buffer for variable sources like wind (solar is of little value there up north). Except for the visible annoyance (and bird killing) in their beautiful landscape of course…
        Thus by going 100% “green” they can sell all their oil and gas to other countries that don’t have that geological luck… A little hypocritical, isn’t it?

      • Being a cold country, anything powered by batteries is going to have a tough time up there as well.
        Either the Norwegians don’t drive much or there is something wrong with those numbers.
        For the US, the estimates for the increase in electricity production needed to support conversion of the transportation fleet to electric ranges from a factor of 2 to 10, not 15%.

      • MarkW wrote: “For the US, the estimates for the increase in electricity production needed to support conversion of the transportation fleet to electric ranges from a factor of 2 to 10, not 15%.”
        That seems a bit low. This article on the subject places that figure at 29%, though it’s based on a quick estimation:
        “The U.S. burned 133 billion gallons of gasoline in 2012. I’m going to ignore diesel vehicles because the majority of diesel burned in the U.S. is in heavy vehicles where battery-electric drivetrains are not a practical option.
        The average thermal energy content in gasoline is 33.41 kWh per gallon. This gives 4,443 TWh of thermal power going to gasoline road vehicles in the U.S. per year. If we assume electric vehicles use energy with four times the efficiency of gasoline vehicles (a reasonable round number), it would take 1,111 TWh of electrical energy to replace that gasoline energy. U.S. electricity consumption in 2011 was 3,882 TWh.
        So the increase in yearly electricity demand would be about 29 percent.”

    • Our house has been 100% electric since it was built (1981).
      We do have a modern wood stove for emergency heat.

    • “heat pumps, hydroelectricity, and even special stoves that burn wood chips”. Well, if Norway can’t grow enough trees for woodchips, or build enough dams for hydro, they can just use Danish wind power for heat pumps. At times.

    • Then it would be a crime to buy oil or gas from them. Let’s start cutting back now—maybe we can ramp up US production and countries can by from the USA. We don’t want to harm Norway’s committment to fossil fuel free, do we?

    • Great! And I shall learn to fly in 2020, too. In the meantime, I’ll use my gasoline powered car.

    • Well, for Norway it is easy, since most of their homes are heated via electricity, which comes 95+% from natural hydro… we are talking about a country with a population 1/2 that of NYC.

    • Jerry Brown’s California is supposed to be 100% electric and 100% renewables (no hydro) by 2020. That is as stated by two of his henchmen at the recent UC Merced Symposium on solar energy, which was actually held at UC Davis this year. I know this because I attend that symposium every year.
      PS is the 3.2% of US energy the GENERATED US energy, or is it the installed label plate possible energy ??

  4. “EIA data shows wind & solar provide only 3.2% of U.S. 2016 energy,” and they will not be ready for prime time for decades. Furthermore, the maximum replacement potential of alternative energy sources is unknown and limited by the finite number of suitable locations for wind and water projects and by lack of technology for commercial storage of energy when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. Sunk costs are already billions of dollars spent on failed large-scale solar projects. Implementing alternative energy projects now is getting the cart before the horse. Connected politicians and special interests need to get out of the way and let the free markets work.

  5. The contribution of solar to the nation’s energy budget is way more than 3%. Most buildings get a significant part of their heating just from the sun shining gently through the windows. link I can’t find a link but I recall from years ago that the total solar gain through conventional windows is about 7% of the heating load.

    • Fossil fuels are concentrated solar power and wind is driven by solar heating of the atmosphere… So, solar is probably north of 80%.
      However, the EIA only covers primary energy production from man-made sources.

      • Even nuclear is technically solar, however it was someone else’s sun that went boom billions of years ago.

      • For that matter, since geo-thermal relies on the heat of nuclear decay in the earth’s core, it’s indirect solar as well.

        • Which is all the more reason that it is silly to count ambient solar warming as a source of primary energy production.

    • Whatever gain we get in cold weather is more than likely offset by the additional heat load we must use energy to overcome during warm weather.

    • And what happens in the summer? You turn on the A/C because the sun is beating down too hard. Sorry, there isn’t a free lunch there.

      • Depends on the siting of your house. Ours sits so the sun in the winter hits all the windows on the southern exposure. In the summer, the angle is completely different and there is not nearly as much heating through the windows. The northern wall has almost no windows.

      • Let’s see – there must be some way of getting more power locally for the A/C when the sun is beating down on your roof…
        what could that be?

      • If you don’t care how much money you waste, there are all kinds of solutions to every problem under the sun.

    • “commieBob July 4, 2017 at 12:54 pm
      The contribution of solar to the nation’s energy budget is way more than 3%. Most buildings get a significant part of their heating just from the sun shining gently through the windows. link I can’t find a link but I recall from years ago that the total solar gain through conventional windows is about 7% of the heating load.”

      I find that sum extremely doubtful.
      An unheated greenhouse with insulated windows, might get a slight boost between 10AM and 2PM.
      All night long, and most of the day; not a chance.
      This from someone who runs a small greenhouse year round in a temperate zone. Those seeking warmth through windows further north, will be quite disappointed.
      Perhaps it is an achievable amount in Mexico City or Cairo; when they need it.
      Summing the sun’s heat load from the tropics and spreading it amongst colder climes would be a NOAA type trick. So, perhaps you did read that number in NOAA or METO pretend news releases.

    • Perhaps in more temperate climes, here in the northern regions when it is -30C even with a low bright sun shining in it cannot overcome the R factor losses and the window area is a net cooling element for any residence or office building.

    • ” I can’t find a link but I recall from years ago that the total solar gain through conventional windows is about 7% of the heating load.”
      Well… give us an estimate of the heat losses in winter through the same windows, will you? 🙂

      • Gladly. The net heat gain over the heating season for south facing triple glazed windows in Canada is around 800 MJ/m^2. link That’s around 80,000 BTU per square foot of window, but remember that those BTUs are spread out over the whole heating season.
        My house is on an angle so I have around 30 square feet of southish facing windows. That gives me about the same heat as my furnace firing for 45 hours. As a wild ass guess, I would say that is on the order of 10% of my heating.

  6. And unlike reliable power generators, that 3% wind and solar capacity can’t replace reliable capacity and so is duplicative capacity, which increases the cost of power for everyone.
    I assume the EIA figures include the solar rooftop power, although they cannot measure that.

      • Added cost and reduced efficiency.
        What’s not to love?
        PS: That thermal storage only lasts for a few hours. What are you going to do the rest of the night?

      • ” only lasts for a few hours”

        Crescent Dunes has 1.1 gigawatts of storage. The plant is rated at 110 MW. Do the math.

      • How well does the CSP work in areas frequented by thunderstorms, or blizzards, or ice storms, or ….long winter nights? Do those mirrors work well after being bombarded by a hail storm. Because there are many economic ways to produce electricity that are not vulnerable to those common occurrences.

      • Reality is that across the board where CSP has been installed [US, Spain, etc.] actual efficiencies run 40-60% below projected output. And the Crescent Dune storage capacity is the exception, not the norm.
        For practical purposes, in terms of actual cost per kWh, this reduces CSP to an expensive, semi-intermittent source of electricity – considerably more expensive than PV. Which would go a long in explaining what the large scale adoption of this technology has not materialized as anticipated.
        In the late 1950s early 1960s, with dwindling hydrocarbon reserves in France itself and in the process of losing access to the reserves in Algeria, the French government under general De Gaulle actuall built and tested several available energy technologies, including wave, tidal, nuclear and also CSP with the aim of establishing national energy security. In the end, every option other than nuclear was discarded – based one or more fundamental shortcomings. The CSP test facility still stands in the Pyrenees and is open to visitors.
        Those wedded to the idea that anthropogenic CO2 is the main driver of temperature / climate on earth will note that as a result of adopting nuclear across the board, France has by far the lowest CO2 emissions per energy unit produced of any OECD country.

      • Russ R, have you ever traveled? Have you ever been to the the desert in Nevada? Do you know why it’s called a “desert?”

      • Tetris, why does the French government subsidize Areva? Why does Areva have serious financial problems?

      • Rob Bradley
        Wiki is the garbage in GIGO and not an accepted reference source at any self respecting university – so stop using it to convince me of anything.
        As anyone who has any understanding of how France works would tell you, the French state is omnipresent in the country’s economy. Areva is the successor to Framatome which was the original nuclear R&D arm of the EDF – do you expect Laurence Livermore to turn a profit?
        When the French Socialist government announced that decision in 2015 it was still deep in parliamentary bed with the Greens. Why don’t you keep an eye on what happens with that legislation now that Macro is in power. He is nobody’s fool – a highly intelligent product of the Ecole Nationale de l’Administration and crucially someone with no ideologically hard held beliefs and who understands full well that cutting back on France’s highly efficient nuclear energy security is economic suicide. As anyone who knows France even a bit will tell you, the wind farms you see there are for feel-good purposes only – in particular the wind mills you see right next door to the triple reactor site along the autoroute du sud just north of Avignon…
        BTW: other than your blustering Wiki GIGO retort you don’t have any meaningful answer to why CSP is stuck in the mud.

      • When considering overnight storage, note that demand for electricity is usually very much lower between 12 midnight and 6 am…
        so the storage mostly gets used/is needed in the early part of the evening.
        (The UK tends to cover early evening demand with pumped storage and hydro at present: I would expect battery storage would cover the ramp down of solar in the near future)

      • Rob, your naivety is cute.
        First off, unless you have perfect insulation, much of that heat will be lost to the environment.
        Secondly, once the temperature drops below the minimum, the remaining energy is stranded and unusable.

      • It’s called a desert because it doesn’t rain much. Says nothing about average cloud cover.
        Regardless, the fact that the site is far away from urban centers where the electricity is needed most of what little energy it does produce will be lost in transmission.

      • Just the other day Little Griff was telling us how all those electric cars were going to be recharged over night.
        Now he’s telling us that we don’t need so much thermal storage because there is less power demand at night.
        Contradict yourself much?

      • Mark I happened to check when EVs in Norway are charged… yes, it is overnight.
        Demand is much lower 12 mid night to 6 am, so I’d expect car charging to be in that slot

  7. The belief in alchemy remains strong. We are always one magical step from using energy from weather to run our cars, heat our homes, light our rooms, and whatever other fantasies we may have. There was a reason fossil fuels were used—they work. Back then, people didn’t virtue signal so much and live in a fantasy world. Doing so was fatal. Only because of fossil fuels can fools be talked into believing in energy alchemy. Electricity is the best for this—after all, electricity is invisible and magical. One can spin whatever marvelous tales one wants and get federal funding to pursue to the fantasy.

  8. The maritime industry sorted all this nonsense out many moons ago.
    If you want your next iPad delivered on time would you entrust it to a fast Clipper? And how about your next cup of tea?

  9. The thing about Norway is that they started off with a very low portfolio of fossil fuels, being mostly hydro. They can’t just close a coal plant. So to reduce carbon use they have to lower gasoline and heating oils. They put on, by some calculations, $8,000 in subsidies a year to electric vehicles with about 30% uptake but it came with a very heavy price that is going to be a focus of the next election. How to pay for the transition? Or just tell them the EU to stuff it and push for a per capita carbon target. Germany gets their East Germany inefficiencies to tell them they are doing well since 1990, Norway has very little place to go, until (if) electric cars become cheap. Retrofitting homes for heat pumps that don’t work as well in cold weather in a northern clime also sounds sensible no?

  10. The US actually gets just 1.3% of TOTAL energy supply from Geo, S&W according to the IEA. Therefore S&W alone would supply about 0.6% of US TOTAL energy according to Lomborg’s calculations.
    And the same percentages for global energy as well according to Lomborg and he quotes the IEA as his source. Here’s the US PIE chart from the IEA.

    • Your looking at the 2014 Total energy numbers. The latest ones are for 2016. That is what is referenced in this article.

      • There is zip chance of the 3% being correct by 2016. It isn’t possible and you’ll find that S&W would be battling to be 1% by 2016.
        The IEA told Lomborg that TOTAL world energy may get about 2.4% from S&W by 2040.
        But it’s all BS and fra-d anyway because the 2016 EIA report informed us that world co2 emissions will increase by 34% by 2040. Even Dr Hansen said that Paris COP 21 was just ” BS and fra-d” and that a belief in S&W is like believing in the Tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. IOW it’s a fairytale.
        And he’s the father of their so called CAGW. Here’s Lomborg’s PR study on Paris COP 21, all details are available here.

  11. Crescent Dunes, 10 Hours nominal storage, if the plant has been functioning at maximum. Come October, the nights get to be 13 hours long, more than 14 by December.
    And 110Mw is enough for 75,000 homes. At what price?

      • Bob’s style is to ask stupid questions. Let me take a go at it.
        Bob did you know that you just posted a link that shows Crescent Dunes does not work very well?
        I am not surprised, nobody has.
        Bob do you know the difference between BS expectation claims and actual performance? Did you know all the nuke plants I worked start up during the 80s are still running and exceeding original expectations?
        Did you know that AREVA does not make electricity? Did you know that AREVA lost a boat load of money on wind and solar projects?
        Finally, did you know that one of our children gets his power from NV Energy? Do you know that ‘$0.135 per kilowatt-hour’ is 13 times his retail rate or more than 70 times wholesale generating rates?
        The rest of the readers besides Bob and Griff will understand why I want Crescent dunes to fail. I am not worried about the cost of solar if it is 1% of our bill. If is 25%, it will hurt families.

      • Retired Kit P, do you realize that turning it back on Rob using his annoying question-asking style is pretty funny?

      • Did you know that AREVA does not make electricity?

        Yes I know that AREVA does not make electricity. You know full well what they “make” and you know why I mentioned it.

      • Did you know all the nuke plants I worked start up during the 80s are still running and exceeding original expectations?

        Good. Can you get back to me, oh, say around 2040, when the solar thermal industry is as mature as the nuclear power industry to compare results?

        I guess you’ve never heard what a “learning curve” is.

  12. Absolutely no surprises in this report.
    Not mentioned is the fact all “renewables” need back up provided by the GRID due to the inherent intermittent nature of “renewables”.

  13. “Not if you live in California”
    The cost of making electricity with fossil fuel is pretty cheap everywhere in the US. It is the hidden taxes that make the difference.
    The false premise of renewable energy is that making fossil fuels expensive with taxes will not lower the cost of renewable energy.
    First off, wind and solar has to work as advertised.
    If the business model uses sales of 500,000 MWh to make a profit and only 100,000 MWh is produced, the facility will close.
    Second, if wind and solar cuts into tax revenue, taxes go up for wind and solar.

  14. 3%
    Ok, I was wrong. Many years I said it would never be more than 1%.
    Of course if the claims of exponential growth happened 320% of our power supply would be wind and solar.
    Every time a nuke or coal plant closes, those industries are declared dead. For wind and solar, exponential growth leads to exponential failure.

  15. The chart seems to be looking at ALL energy, gasoline, diesel, ethanol and not just electricity as I had originally thought. What is solar and winds percentage of electricity generation?

  16. Here’s the EU IEA PIE chart for TOTAL world energy sources. Note that Geo, S&W COMBINED only produce 1.3% of TOTAL energy.
    Lomborg asked and was told by the IEA that S&W ALONE only produced about 0.6% in 2014. Even if that increased by 10% for the next couple of years it would still be about 0.7% at most.
    The EU also told Lomborg that S&W may produce about 2.4% of TOTAL energy by 2040. And the US EIA 2016 report also tells us that co2 emissions will increase by 34% by 2040. What is it people don’t understand about these simple facts? I’ve linked to Lomborg’s PR study above, please read his summary and begin to understand their fra-dulent mitigation nonsense.
    Hansen knows Paris COP 21 “BS and fra-d” , so why are people finding this so difficult to understand? Here’s the EU based IEA chart for TOTAL world energy.

  17. Great graph. It tells how biofuels (wood) were replaced by coal. It does not cover the time when windmills were replaced by steam engines.
    Last step is the reduction of coal and increase of natural gas. USA is not a leader in the next coming of nuclear. Would be nice the see the figures of that.

      • In some places and at some seasons.
        In sunny places where aircon is in use, demand may peak in summer around noon to 2 pm.
        In India a major part of rural demand is water pumping – which is now being done when solar power is available.
        The UK has two peak times: mid day all year and additionally an early evening (higher) peak in winter

    • and do note that 35% of German electricity demand was met by renewables in the first half of 2017!

      • Mark, you will find German electricity exports are rising and that Germany exported more to France than it received…
        Imports are not propping up Germany’s electric grid.

      • @MArkW – wrong – look at the 3rd slide Germany is a net exporter of electricity…..

      • There is more “sunwindetc.” capacity in Germany than coalnuclear one and the first is privileged and prioritized. Nevertheless sunwindetc can produce only a third of the amount needed; coalnuclear could produce whatever is needed, whenever it is needed.
        If the German government wants to carry out its plans for the future wind-capacity it will actually have to scrap some wind-mills. Mugged by reality (you will have to look this up)!

    • Very very interesting is January 2017: Several times wind and sun delivered practically nothing. The 10-day “Dunkelflaute” (darkness-dead calm) cannot be ignored by the likes of Griff, should they have a shred of decency.

      • I have not ignored it -you will find I have referred to it in my posts elsewhere.
        I believe it is a solveable problem… imports from Norwegian hydro, other parts of Europe not under high pressure and stored gas (biogas, from power to gas) all all parts of a solution. Remember also Germany has an 80% reenwable target for 2050, not a 100% one.
        At the least it proves that there are 355 days when low wind/no sun are not a problem and it is not ‘weeks’ at a time when wind or sun do not deliver.

    • This is not about producing energy, it is about receiving tax incentives. From the EIA report about the growth in renewables:
      “Of the 2016 renewable additions, nearly 60% were scheduled to come online during the fourth quarter. Renewable capacity additions are often highest in the final months of the year, in part, because of timing qualifications for federal, state, or local tax incentives”.
      So the taxpayer can pay more for electricity by using higher priced methods to produce it, and pay more in taxes to fund tax incentives for renewable capacity. Lose-Lose for the taxpayer.

  18. The author conveniently left out biofuels, which went from nearly nothing to about 5% in the same period as the build-up in wind and solar. So, total renewables are approaching 8.2%, also add in hydro and the renewables are easily over 10%. Not bad for a fairly brief period. As for the subsidies that some others have yammered about, What exactly were Oak Ridge, Hanford, the Interstate Highway system and all the exploration tax credits that the fossil fuel interests receive? Then add in the cost of environmental damage that results from externalizing the cost of pollution and you have massive subsidies that probably are beyond reasonable calculation. Renewables are a good investment, and the European countries that have made the investment are becoming less dependent on Russia and the Middle East every year.

Comments are closed.