The share of the Nation’s total energy supply provided by renewable energy resources increased to 7.6 percent in 1995 (6.8 quadrillion Btu), up from 7.1 percent the previous year (Table H1). The increase was due primarily to a 17-percent jump in electricity generation from hydroelectric power. Nonhydroelectric renewable energy was essentially unchanged from 1994 levels. Renewable energy consumption has increased at a 2.2-percent annual rate since 1991.

Table H1. U.S. Renewable Energy Consumption by Source, 1991-1995
(Quadrillion Btu)

Energy Source






Conventional Hydroelectric Powera R3.181 R2.852 R3.138 R2.958 3.461
Geothermal Energy R0.347 R0.367 R0.381 R0.381 0.325
Biomassb 2.642 2.788 2.784 2.852 2.941
Solar Energyc 0.068 0.068 0.069 R0.068 0.073
Wind Energy 0.027 0.030 0.031 0.036 0.033
Total 6.265 6.106 6.403 R6.296 6.832
aHydroelectricity generated by pumped storage is not included in renewable energy.
bIncludes wood, wood waste, peat, wood sludge, municipal solid waste, agricultural waste, straw, tires, landfill gases, fish oils, and/or other waste.
cIncludes solar thermal and photovoltaic.
R = Revised data.
Notes: See “Data Characteristics and Caveats” section for a detailed explanation. Totals may not equal sum of components due to independent rounding.
Sources: 1991-1994: Energy Information Administration (EIA), Annual Energy Review 1995, DOE/EIA-0384(95) (Washington, DC, July 1996), Table 1.3. 1995: Consumption values based on the sum of electricity consumption from EIA, Electric Power Annual 1995, Vol. 2, DOE/EIA-0348(95/2) (Washington, DC, December 1996), and non-electricity consumption based on analysis by the Office of Coal, Nuclear, Electric and Alternate Fuels.

Biomass: Wood and Ethanol

Biomass energy consumption increased by 3.1 percent from 1994 to 1995, somewhat more than the 2.6-percent annual growth rate from 1991 to 1994. Excluding hydropower, biomass accounted for 87 percent of the remaining renewable energy consumption in 1995.

Wood pellets, manufactured from finely ground wood fiber, represent a fast-growing biomass fuel market. In the residential and commercial sectors, an increase in residential wood use for heating resulted in a 10-percent increase in renewable energy consumption in 1995. U.S. pellet fuel production increased by 18 percent between the 1993-94 and 1995-96 heating seasons.

Wildfires destroyed more than 5.4 million acres of brush and forest land during 1996, potentially affecting fiber supply. This was more than 2.5 times the 5-year average of nearly 2 million acres a year.

Fuel ethanol production dropped sharply in mid-1996 because of short corn supplies and high prices. Plant output began to increase toward the end of the growing season, reaching near-normal levels at the end of the year.

Municipal Solid Waste

Production of energy from municipal solid waste (MSW) supplies, which grew rapidly during the 1980s as a result of public policy at the Federal, State, and local levels that promoted the construction of waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities, has been curtailed during the 1990s. Current environmental policies encourage recycling and require costly pollution control at WTE facilities. Federal tax policy no longer favors investments in capital-intensive projects and limits municipal bond issues by States to finance the construction of facilities that are privately owned.

The WTE industry is also feeling the competitive pressures of deregulation. Electricity prices are dropping, and waste streams are going to the cheapest disposal option, which in many cases is out-of-State landfilling.

The MSW industry is also experiencing the effects of judicially driven deregulation decisions that have created uncertainty about the control of waste streams and protection of capital investments in WTE facilities. Two decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court (Fort Gratiot Landfill v. Michigan Department of Natural Resources and C&A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown, New York) have outlawed waste management practices in many municipalities throughout the country; however, recent decisions by lower courts interpreting the Supreme Court guidance have provided legally acceptable paths for municipalities to follow in developing waste management systems.

The use of landfills as a waste disposal option is likely to increase in the near term; however, it is unlikely that many landfills will begin converting waste to energy because of unfavorable economics, particularly with electricity prices declining.


With the construction of new geothermal power facilities stalled, the most significant event in the U.S. geothermal industry in 1996 was the startup of a new 40-megawatt power plant in California, Salton Sea Unit IV.

Geothermal electricity generation continues to decline, falling to about 14.7 million kilowatthours in 1995 from its 1994 level of 17.1 million kilowatthours. Most notably, generation at The Geysers geothermal resource area has declined both for economic reasons and because of reduced steam pressure. Other facilities continue to produce steady quantities of electricity.


The domestic wind energy market has remained stable, even as market uncertainty increases with electric utility deregulation and restructuring. Wind-powered electricity generation totaled 3.2 million kilowatthours in 1995, down from 3.5 million kilowatthours in 1994.

California has, by far, more wind-powered generating capacity and electricity generation than any other State. In 1996, California had 95 percent of the operational wind capacity in the country. Minnesota, however, has 61 percent of the planned capacity.

Wind turbine performance continues to improve, and costs (both capital and operations and maintenance) continue to decline as wind energy projects are becoming increasingly geographically dispersed.


Solar energy consumption rose by 7 percent in 1995, mostly as a result of increased use of solar panels for heating in the residential/commercial sector (primarily for swimming pools).

The average price of solar thermal collectors dropped by 11 percent, from $3.73 per square foot in 1994 to $3.29 per square foot in 1995. Shipments of solar thermal collectors increased by 1 percent overall, with a 5-percent increase for medium-temperature collectors and a slight decrease (less than 0.5 percent) for low-temperature collectors.

Shipments of photovoltaic modules and cells totaled 31.1 peak megawatts in 1995, an increase of 19 percent over 1994 shipments. The total value of photovoltaic module and cell shipments was $118 million in 1994, 10 percent more than the value of shipments in 1985. The total value of crystalline silicon shipments in 1995 was $109.5 million, 28 percent higher than the value of 1994 shipments.

Exports of photovoltaic modules and cells totaled 20 peak megawatts in 1994.

The use of photovoltaic modules and cells for grid-interactive electricity generation doubled, from 2.3 peak megawatts in 1994 to 4.6 peak megawatts in 1995, the second consecutive year of 100-percent capacity growth.

International Renewable Energy

Additions to installed wind turbine capacity reached their single-year high in 1995—a total of 1,289 megawatts—bringing the worldwide cumulative total to 4,900 megawatts.

In the past 10 years, sales of photovoltaics worldwide have more than quadrupled, while installed costs have dropped by more than half. The rapid decline in the cost of photovoltaics and the development of niche markets have increased demand at a rate of 25 percent per year. In developing countries, demand has risen significantly. Manufacturers of photovoltaic cells and modules in the United States are currently exporting about two-thirds of their annual production (about 21 peak megawatts).

Costa Rica has set a goal of producing 98 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2000.

The Philippines is now the second-largest producer of geothermal electricity, after the United States, with a 1994 installed capacity of 1,191 megawatts. Total installed capacity is expected to reach 1,945 megawatts by 1998. As of mid-1996, the World Bank and its Global Environmental Facility had a combined 41 renewable energy projects in several stages of development, from appraisal to ongoing.

Appendix I provides a list of internet addresses for web sites that include renewable energy information.

Renewable Energy Annual 1996
April 1997
[Click on any entry to go there.]

Front Matter
1. Renewable Data Overview
2. Biomass Profile: Wood and Ethanol
3. Municipal Solid Waste Profile
4. Geothermal Energy Profile
5. Wind Energy Profile
6. Solar Industry Profile
7. The Role of Electric Utilities in the Photovoltaics Industry
8. Public Policy Affecting the Waste-to-Energy Industry
9. Flow Control and the Interstate Movement of Waste: Post-Carbone
10. Growth of the Landfill Gas Industry
11. Management of Known Geothermal Resource Areas
12. International Renewable Energy
Appendix A. EIA Renewable Energy Data Sources
Appendix B. Renewable Data Limitations
Appendix C. Geothermal Energy and Geysers
Appendix D. Environmental Impacts of Geothermal Energy
Appendix E. Examples of Contract Arrangements at The Geysers
Appendix F. Additional Solar and Photovoltaic Tables
Appendix G. Moody’s Bond Ratings
Appendix H. LFG: Commercial Energy Recovery Case Studies
Appendix I. List of Internet Addresses: Renewable Energy Information by Resource
Appendix J. State Agencies That Provide Energy Information

File last modified: April 16, 1997

Mark Gielecki
Phone: (202) 426-1141
Fax: (202) 426-1280