This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

September 03, 2003

U.S. Renewable Energy Use Increases 11 Percent in 2002

The use of renewable energy increased 11 percent in 2002, according to preliminary data from DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). Most of the increase is due to increased hydropower production following a drought-induced slump in 2001. However, nearly all forms of renewable energy registered increases in their use, including a 56 percent increase in wind power, a 17 percent increase in alcohol fuels, and a 15 percent increase in the use of municipal solid waste and landfill gas (which the EIA combined together). The largest percentage drop was in residential use of biomass (in other words, firewood), which fell by 14 percent. See the EIA's Renewables Energy Trends report.

Although the EIA figures show the use of solar energy declining slightly (by about 3 percent), new figures from the International Energy Agency (IEA) seem to dispute that finding, at least in regard to solar photovoltaic systems. According to the IEA, the total capacity of photovoltaic systems installed in the United States increased by 44.4 megawatts in 2002, an increase of nearly 21 percent. The total U.S. photovoltaic power capacity of 212.2 megawatts places the United States in third place worldwide, behind Germany, with 277.3 megawatts, and Japan, with nearly 637 megawatts. Japan added 184 megawatts of photovoltaic power capacity in 2002, more than all other countries combined. The IEA report also shows an interesting trend: although nearly all photovoltaic power capacity was off-grid a decade ago, customer-located grid-connected systems now dominate. See the "Total Photovoltaic Power Installed" section of the IEA report, "Trends in Photovoltaic Applications."