Despite the uncertainty concerning the impacts of federal tax reform legislation along with a spate of new import tariffs, the US renewable energy sector throughout 2018 remained remarkably resilient. With the sector continuing to gain ground, output from utility-scale wind and solar capacity topped 8 percent of total US electricity generation through the third quarter of 2018, compared with 7 percent for the same period in 2017.
There are a number of trends that we expect to further drive the renewable energy sector forwards and the fundamental drivers of this growth are poised to increase performance through 2019. The trends include an expanding investor interest in the sector, the emergence of governmental policies that aim to support renewable growth, along with advancing technologies that boost wind and solar energy’s value to the grid, asset owners, and customers.
Declining costs of wind and solar generation, advances in battery storage technology along with the growing level of expertise amongst grid operators in transferring intermittent power to the supply grid are all fundamental factors that provided the platform for growth throughout 2018. In addition to this, and perhaps most significant, was the robust demand from most market segments. Utilities demonstrated strong “voluntary demand,” as opposed to the demand driven by policy mandates we’ve seen in the past. Voluntary procurement represented 52 percent of utility-scale solar projects in development and 73 percent of projects announced in the first half of 2018. This demand was partly driven by corporations’ rapidly growing appetite for renewables. As of mid-October 2018, corporations had purchased nearly five gigawatts (GW) of renewables through a variety of procurement routes.
Demand from consumers was also robust in 2018. More than half of all residential survey respondents indicated that it is extremely or very important to them that part of their electricity supply comes from renewable sources, trending upward since 2013. And just under half of business respondents are working to procure more electricity from renewable sources.