Solar Provides 0.2% of Electric Supply--Up From 0.02% Before Obama

By Terence P. Jeffrey | January 29, 2014 | 5:26pm EST

(AP PHoto/Julie Jacobsen)

( - Solar power, which President Barack Obama promoted in his State of the Union Address, accounted for 0.2 percent of the U.S. electricity supply in the first nine months of 2013, according to data published by the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration.

That is up from the 0.02 percent of the total electricity supply that solar power sources provided in 2008, the last calendar year before Obama took office.

“Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy,” Obama said in the State of the Union. “The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we've been in decades.”

“It's not just oil and natural gas production that's booming; we're becoming a global leader in solar, too,” he said. “Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar; every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job can't be outsourced. Let's continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don't need it, so that we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.”

According to the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration, the United States is producing less electricity now than it did when Obama took office. (See Table 7.2.a.)

In 2008, according to EIA, the U.S. generated a net of 4,119,388 million kilowatthours of electricity. In 2012, the last full calendar year for which data has been collected, the U.S. generated a net of 4,047,765 million kilowatthours of electricity.

From 2008 to 2012, U.S. electricity production declined by 1.7 percent.

In the first nine months of 2013, according to the latest data from EIA, U.S. electricity production continued to decline. In those nine months, the U.S. produced 3,078,460 million kilowatthours of electricity compared to 3,095,504 in the first nine months of 2012.

Coal remains the largest source of electricity in the United States, even though coal-produced electricity has been declining in the Obama years.

In 2008, the U.S. generated 1,985,801 million kilowatthours—or 48.2 percent--of its total of 4,119,388 million kilowatthours of electricity from coal. In 2012, the U.S. generated 1,514,043 million kilowatthours---or 37.4 percent--of its total of 4,047,765 million kilowatthours from coal.

Solar-generated electricity did not make up the slack.

In 2008, according to EIA, the U.S. got 864 million kilowatthours—or 0.02 percent--of its 4,119,388 million kilowatthours of electricity from solar thermal and photovoltaic energy. By 2012, the U.S. got 4,327 million kilowatthours—or 0.1 percent--of its 4,047,765 million kilowatthours from solar.

In the first nine months of 2013, the U.S. got 6,407 million kilowatthours—or 0.2 percent--of the total of 3,078,460 million kilowatthours generated up to that point from solar.

Thus, even though solar generation of electricity has been increasing at a tremendous pace in the United States since 2008, it still supplies only 0.2 percent of the country’s electricity.

A larger supply of U.S. electricity, according to EIA, comes from wood. In the first nine months of 2013, 28,400 million kilowatthours of electricity--or 0.9 percent--of the total of 3,078,460 million kilowatthours generated up to that point came from wood.

“Most of the electricity from wood biomass is generated at lumber and paper mills,” says a brief by the EIA. “These mills use their own wood waste to provide much of their own steam and electricity needs.”

Since 2008, natural gas-generated electricity has increased as a share of the overall supply. In 2008, it produced 882,981 million kilowatt hours—or 21.4 percent—of the 4,119,388 million overall supply. In 2012, it generated 1,225,894 million kilowatthours—or about 30.3 percent—of total of 4,047,765 million kilowatthours of supply. In the first nine months of 2013, it generated 853,969 million kilowatthours—or about 27.7 percent—of the 3,078,460 million kilowatthours of total supply.

Nonetheless, electricity has gotten more expensive since 2008—with the electricity price index now at its all-time high.

In December 2009, the month before Obama took office, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ seasonally adjusted electricity index was 193.965. In December 2013, it hit a record 203.186. In December 2008, the average price for a kilowatt hour of electricity in the United States was 12.4 cents. In December 2013, it was 13.1 cents—the most expensive electricity has ever been in December.

The business and economic reporting of is funded in part with a gift made in memory of Dr. Keith C. Wold.

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