Renewable energy use drops 12 percent in 2001

Dec. 10, 2002 — The Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest renewable energy report shows that the consumption of energy by all renewable energy sources except wind has seen a sharp decline in 2001.

Renewable energy consumption declined more than 12 percent in 2001 to just 5.7 quadrillion Btu, its lowest level in over 12 years (Table H1, below). and (Figure H1, above). As a result, renewable energy’s share of U.S. energy consumption dropped to 6 percent, mainly due to a 23-percent drop in hydropower.

This steep decline resulted in biomass becoming the leading source of renewable energy. However, biomass energy itself also declined to 2.9 quadrillion Btu in 2001, 3 percent below the 2000 level. In fact, consumption of all principal renewable energy resources decreased in 2001, except for wind.

Trends in generation from renewable energy closely mirrored energy consumption patterns. Hydroelectric generation decreased 23 percent; biomass generation decreased nearly 2 percent; geothermal generation decreased 1 percent, while generation from wind power increased more than 3 percent. Solar-based generation remained essentially flat from 2000 to 2001.

Renewable electric generating capacity increased modestly in 2001, rising from 94,938 megawatts in 2000 to 96,741 megawatts in 2001. Wind power provided most of the 1,803-megawatt capacity increase.

The five leading States for renewable generation during 2000 were: Washington, California, Oregon, New York, and Idaho. Hydroelectric generation dominated renewable generation in each State. Despite the decline in hydropower output, these States accounted for over two-thirds of total renewable electricity generated in the United States.

Nonelectric use of renewable energy decreased nearly 3 percent between 2000 and 2001. Ninety-six percent of nonelectric renewable energy consumption came from biomass.

Solar manufacturing activities

Shipments of solar thermal collectors surged 34 percent in 2001 to 11.2 million square feet. The gain was entirely due to increases in low-temperature collector shipments, which accounted for 98 percent of total shipments.

Total solar thermal collector shipments were valued at $32.4 million in 2001, up 18 percent from 2000. The average per-square-foot price dropped from $3.28 to $2.90.

Nearly three-fourths of solar thermal collectors were shipped to Florida and California. This is consistent with the high percentage of collectors shipped to residences (90 percent) and that were reported to be used for pool heating (96 percent).

There were dramatic changes in the patterns of photovoltaic (PV) cell and module shipments. Domestic shipments shot up nearly 80 percent in 2001 to 36.3 peak megawatts, while exports declined 10 percent. This reverses a 10-year history of largely modest growth in domestic shipments and strong gains in exports. Overall, total PV cell and module shipments rose 11 percent in 2001 to 98 peak megawatts.

There were also substantial changes in the type of module produced. For example, thin-film silicon, which had never had more than 4 peak megawatts shipped in a single year, had almost 13 peak megawatts of cells and modules shipped in 2001. This was partially at the expense of cast-and-ribbon cells and modules, whose shipments decreased from 33 peak megawatts in 2000 to 30 peak megawatts in 2001.

Module manufacturers purchased substantially less product in 2001, receiving shipments of 14 peak megawatts of cells and modules, compared with 19 peak megawatts in 2000. Despite this trend, total module.shipments rose from 55,007 peak kilowatts to 67,033 peak kilowatts.

The total value of PV cell and module shipments rose to $305 million in 2001, a 13-percent gain over 2000. The average price per peak megawatt held fairly steady for both cells and modules during 2001 at $2.46 and $3.42, respectively.

A 34-percent surge in shipments to the residential market enabled it to regain its ranking as the top market for PV cells and modules in 2001. Manufacturers shipped 33 peak megawatts of cells and modules to the residential market in 2001, compared with 25 in 2000. Shipments to the second-largest market sector, industrial, declined slightly from 29 to 28 peak megawatts.

Shipments for electricity generation rose sharply. Shipments for grid-interactive and remote application markets increased 25 and 43 percent, respectively, to combine for a total of 49 peak megawatts in 2001. In contrast, sales to original equipment manufacturers dropped nearly 50 percent from year-ago levels.

The drop in exports was due mainly to decreased shipments to Japan (68 percent) and India (98 percent). Since 1999, exports to Japan have decreased 83 percent. Germany remained the leading importer of U.S. PV cells and modules during 2001 with nearly 35 peak megawatts, or 57 percent of total U.S. exports.

Geothermal heat pumps

Shipments of geothermal heat pumps (GHPs) decreased 15 percent between 1999 and 2000 to less than 36,000 units. The total capacity of units shipped fell at a similar rate. Although all models of GHPs suffered shipment declines, ARI 325/330 model shipments dropped the most, from 32,000 units to 26,000 units.

More information on renewable energy is available from the EIA at

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