National Clean Energy Week is a celebration of the policies, industries, and innovations that power our daily lives while producing no or very little greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the very real technological and political challenges, a clean energy future is in our reach, and America is ready to lead the way. Whether attending the Flagship Policy Makers Symposium or hosting your own celebration, please join us in recognition of all that clean energy can bring: energy independence, economic prosperity, and a more peaceful world.
Biomass power is carbon neutral electricity generated from renewable organic waste that would otherwise be dumped in landfills, openly burned, or left as fodder for forest fires. This organic waste can include scrap lumber, forest debris, agricultural harvest waste, and other industry byproducts that serve no other purpose. Biomass power uses these natural materials to generate clean, renewable electricity while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also offers significant other environmental and consumer benefits, including improving forest health, protecting air quality, and offering the most dependable renewable energy source.
The biomass power industry removes over 68.8 million tons of forest debris annually, improving forest health and dramatically reducing the risk of forest fires. In addition, the biomass industry diverts millions of tons of waste material from landfills and open burns. Biomass power plants also eliminate the need for frequent open burns of agricultural waste and forest slash, while continuing to offset the use fossil fuels that produce smog and acid rain. In this way, biomass power greatly improves air quality.
Biomass power is an expanding $1 billion industry with 80 facilities in 20 states that supplies over half of America’s renewable electricity. Nationwide, the biomass industry accounts for over 15,500 jobs, many of which are in small rural communities.
To learn more about biomass, please visit the Biomass Power Association’s website.
Biogas systems are a reliable way to turn organic waste renewable energy and valuable soil products, using a natural, biological process. After simple processing, biogas is a renewable substitute for natural gas. The digested solid and liquid material can be turned into a wide variety of useful soil products, similar or identical to peat moss, pellets and finished compost.
Biogas systems can also recover nutrients helping to protect waterways from runoff and preventing over fertilization to increase nitrogen levels in soil.
What counts as organic waste? Manure from dairies, sludge filtered from sewage water, municipal solid waste, food waste, yard clippings, crop residues and more.
Currently, the U.S. has over 2,200 sites producing biogas in all 50 states. But the potential for growth of the U.S. biogas industry is huge. There are more than 13,500 new sites ripe for development today: 8,241 dairy and swine farms and 3,888 water resource recovery facilities, 931 food scrap-only systems and utilizing the gas at 415 landfills who are flaring their gas today. If fully realized, according to an industry assessment conducted with the USDA, EPA and DOE, plus data from the American Biogas Council, these new biogas systems could produce enough energy to power 7.5 million American homes and reduce emissions equivalent to removing up to 15.4 million passenger vehicles from the road. They would also catalyze an estimated $40 billion in new capital deployment for construction activity which would result in approximately 335,000 short-term construction jobs and 23,000 permanent jobs to run the digesters plus many more jobs in organic waste collection and throughout the supply chain.
To learn more about biogas, visit the American Biogas Council’s website.
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is a technology that has the potential to capture up to 90 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced from the use of fossil fuels in electricity generation and industrial processes, preventing the carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
Benefits of CCS include:
Experts predict that the global energy demand will increase by 50 percent by 2030. Even as renewable energies are adopted across the world, CCS can play a crucial role in protecting the environment from carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
For more information about carbon capture visit Carbon Capture Storage Association’s website.
Critical minerals are non-fuel materials, such as aluminum, cobalt, lithium, and uranium, that are essential in the manufacturing process. They play an important role in technology, infrastructure, clean energy production, and electric-based transportation. Other minerals with significant strategic value include copper, gold, and zinc.
In a May 2020 report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that transitioning to a low-carbon economy will require a reliable supply of critical and strategic minerals. Cobalt, lithium and nickel, for example, are key for battery performance and charging capability. Copper is essential for anything involving electrification, given its exceptional conductivity. As U.S. businesses voluntarily commit to sourcing power from renewables or transitioning completely to electric vehicles (e.g., General Motors), meeting this demand will strain the already limited supply of these minerals. According to the IEA, an electric vehicle requires five times the amount of critical minerals than a fossil fuel vehicle does, and a wind turbine plant demands eight times as much as agas-powered plant with a similar capacity.
Between 2015 and 2018, the U.S. obtained around 80% of rare earth imports from China. China is the largest global consumer of cobalt, with 80% being used to manufacture rechargeable batteries, and has the largest lithium-ion battery market in the world. In 2019, the three top U.S. suppliers of lithium-ion batteries for EVs were South Korea, Japan and China. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the risks of relying on foreign countries for a regular supply of goods and minerals that are key for the daily operations of many industries. These risks are accentuated when this dependence is concentrated in commercial and geopolitical adversaries such as China.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are vehicles that use batteries as an energy source, without relying on any other fuel. The battery in an EV is charged with an electric power source. While the generation of electricity may produce emissions, EVs do not directly emit any exhaust from combustion or associated contaminants and greenhouse gasses. Therefore, they are categorized as zero-emissions vehicles by the Environmental Protection Agency. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), on the other hand, have both a battery that powers an electric motor, and an internal combustion engine that relies on gasoline or diesel.
In the U.S., the number of fleet vehicles (operated by the federal and state governments, transit agencies, and fuel providers) that are electric grew by 264% between 2003 and 2017, from 2,588 to 6,824. Out of 266,300 jobs related to the production of alternative fuels vehicles, EV manufacturing supports 77,667 jobs (or 29% of alternative fuel vehicle jobs) nationwide.
One of the challenges in the use of EVs is the availability of infrastructure, as the range of most vehicles is between 80 and 100 miles before they need to be recharged, although a few luxury models can travel up to 250 miles.
To learn more about electric vehicles, visit the website of the Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center.
The national electricity grid is made up of three main components.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), there are more than 9,700 power plants, hundreds of thousands of miles of high-voltage power lines, and millions of miles of low-voltage power lines and transformers, that distribute power to more than 153 million customers in the U.S. The electric power generation sector employs approximately 896,800 workers, and 417,600 are employed in transmission, distribution and storage.
There are three principal transmission networks in the country, which operate independently from each other:
Network structures are highly interconnected, in order to create redundancy and ensure that power can flow to multiple routes. This ensures reliability of the system and helps prevent interruptions in supply.
To learn more about the energy grid and transmission, visit the EIA website.
Energy storage is an integral part of the electrical supply and transmission and distribution systems and is now receiving increasing attention by a wide range of stakeholders including utilities, end-users, grid system operators and regulators.
Storage has a fundamental value in any network, and system needs and market drivers for energy storage on the grid are quickly accelerating. This is because, at the most basic level, storage imparts flexibility to system planning and operations for any supply chain.
Flexibility allows infrastructure to be deployed more economically, and enables a network to better adapt to constant fluctuations in supply and demand. Significant amounts of storage also prevent costly supply chain disruptions and shortages, and makes the entire system more reliable and resilient.
Over the past decade, the advanced energy storage industry has grown rapidly, even as other parts of the power sector have contracted. Drastic cost declines, increasing manufacturing capacity, and market and regulatory reforms have all contributed to this growth. Most importantly, the value of storing energy on the grid, in all its forms, is increasingly recognized.
For more information on Energy Storage, visit the Energy Storage Association’s website.
Energy efficiency is much broader and bigger than a single widget, such as a LED lightbulb or “smart thermostat”. It can refer to advanced controls and substations, algorithms that dispatch electricity more effectively, apps that help people monitor their own energy use, even the direction the windows face in a glassy new office building. And it has relevance for all energy consumers, including governments, utilities, power plants, aircraft carriers, skyscrapers, manufacturing plants, small businesses, taxi drivers, and homeowners.
And it’s never been a better time to take advantage of energy efficiency’s benefits: technology has advanced rapidly in a short amount of time, and consumers have myriad new ways to save money and resources, while reducing carbon emissions, than ever before.
For example, utilities and other groups increasingly refer to energy efficiency as “a resource” that can displace electricity generation from coal, natural gas, nuclear power, wind power, and other supply-side resources. In many cases, it’s not only a viable option, it’s the cheapest option.
Energy savings from customer energy efficiency programs are typically achieved at 1/3 the cost of new generation resources Efficiency programs can also reduce the need to install, upgrade or replace transmission and distribution equipment.
There are other benefits, too. Efficiency can also improve system reliability and allow utilities to reduce or manage the demand on their systems — in some cases offsetting the need to add new peak generation capacity.
To learn more about how energy efficiency is transforming America’s energy landscape, visit the websites of the Alliance to Save Energy (www.ase.org) and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s website (www.aceee.org).
Geothermal energy—the heat of the Earth—is a clean, renewable resource that provides energy in the U.S. and around the world. The U.S. has been using commercial, large-scale geothermal power plants at deep resource temperatures (between 200˚F and 700˚F) since the 1960s.
Geothermal heat is used directly, without a power plant or a heat pump, for applications such as residential and commercial space heating and cooling, food preparation, hot spring bathing and spas (balneology), agriculture, aquaculture, greenhouses, snowmelting, and industrial processes. Geothermal direct uses are applied at aquifer temperatures between 90˚F and 200˚F.
Examples of direct use applications exist all across the U.S. Idaho’s Capitol Building in Boise uses geothermal for direct heating and cooling. President Franklin D. Roosevelt frequented Georgia’s healing hot springs and founded the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for polio treatment in 1927. Additionally, the City of Klamath Falls, Oregon began piping hot spring water to homes as early as 1900.
To learn more about the promise and potential of geothermal energy, please visit the Geothermal Energy Association’s website.
Hydrogen has the potential to unlock an abundance of clean energy solutions. It is considered a very clean fuel because when burned it mainly emits water instead of greenhouse gases. It can be used to store, transport, and convert carbon-intensive sources of energy into clean-burning hydrogen fuel, which can be used for power generation or as an alternative fuel in the transportation sector.
Hydrogen can be produced in four ways:
Green hydrogen is hydrogen produced with renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, hydropower, or biogas (less than 0.1% of today’s global hydrogen production is “green”).
Blue hydrogen is the second-lowest carbon hydrogen, produced from fossil fuels with Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) to reduce emissions.
Gray hydrogen is produced with fossil fuels such as natural gas or propane (accounting for 71% of hydrogen produced globally).
Brown hydrogen is produced by gasifying fossil fuels such as coal and has the highest carbon impact of any hydrogen production method (23% of global hydrogen production).
Most of today’s hydrogen is used in industry – primarily oil refining or steel, ammonia, and methanol production. However, hydrogen is multipurpose and can be used for transportation (fuel cell cars, trucks, and aircraft), homes and buildings (blending hydrogen into existing natural gas networks), or electricity generation due to its flexibility in storing and transporting power.
While China is the single biggest hydrogen producer internationally, mostly from coal facilities, the vast majority of hydrogen produced here in the US (and across the globe) is from natural gas. As the world’s leader in natural gas production, hydrogen presents an excellent opportunity for the United States to continue to lead the world in clean and renewable energy solutions. It also holds promise as a source of job creation, with hydrogen and fuel-cell production currently providing employment for more than 10,000 Americans.
Like any energy source, hydrogen is not without its challenges. Although the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen is also the lightest, making it difficult to store and transport. Japan, aiming to become the world leader in hydrogen’s clean energy potential, has made significant investments in hydrogen research and development, including fuel cell technology and using ammonia, a hydrogen compound, to overcome storage and transportation issues.
Hydrogen is also not found free-floating in nature so it needs to be separated from other elements to use it as a fuel source. The energy used to produce hydrogen can generate greenhouse gas emissions, depending on the source, as detailed above.
Finally, for the past 100 years hydrogen has had a significant public relations challenge to overcome, linked closely in the popular imagination with the Hindenburg disaster of 1937. In that event, a passenger airship held aloft by hydrogen caught fire and crashed in New Jersey, killing 36 people. Time and technology are helping dispel any fears that hydrogen might too explosive to use as a beneficial, carbon-free energy source.
For more information on the possibilities of hydrogen, visit the Department of Energy’s Hydrogen & Fuel Cell Technologies Office website.
As America’s largest source of clean electricity, hydropower accounts for 52 percent of all renewable energy generation in the U.S. Hydropower has been a reliable source of energy in the U.S. for more than 100 years. That proven reliability benefits the national electric grid in a number of ways, from supporting other renewable energy sources to stabilizing the network to storing electricity for later use. Hydropower facilities often do more than produce electricity, also providing vital benefits such as flood control, navigation, irrigation, water supply and a range of recreational opportunities.
Not only is hydropower a low-cost source of renewable electricity, it is also among the most cost-effective energy sources across the board. And since hydropower taps the self-renewing power of our waterways, its electricity is not subject to unpredictable price swings in the markets for energy commodities. Using hydropower avoids the emission of approximately 200 million metric tons of carbon pollution in America each year. America’s hydropower industry has the potential to create 1.4 million cumulative jobs by 2025, putting Americans to work building a 21st century clean energy infrastructure.
To learn more about the largest source of clean energy in the U.S., visit the National Hydropower Association’s website.
America is a world leader in innovation and the clean energy economy is the next frontier. Continued innovation and technological advancement in the clean energy space will help our economy grow, and re-position the U.S. as an exporter of clean energy technologies.
Research and the advancement of high-potential, high-impact energy technologies will further develop existing clean energy types — such as the next generation of solar technology, wind turbines, waste heat to power and biofuels.
Innovation led by large and small business alike will lead to new applications of technology, such as solar roof tiles, and technologies that can harness the power of ocean waves.
Waste Heat to Power (WHP) is the process of recovering waste heat that would otherwise be vented into the atmosphere and using it to generate electricity with no additional fuel, no combustion, and no incremental emissions.
Waste heat is generated in any industrial process that transforms raw materials into useful products. Examples include steel mills, paper plants, refineries, chemical plants, and general manufacturing, as well as compressor stations along oil and natural gas pipelines. This waste heat is produced whenever the operation is running, often 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. If not recovered for reuse as lower temperature process heat or to produce emission-free power, the heat will dissipate into the atmosphere, a wasted opportunity.
New technologies and innovative applications of existing technologies, including organic Rankine cycle, thermoelectrics, sCO2 power cycles, and Stirling engine, are being developed and piloted on heat streams of varying temperature and quality by companies as diverse as small start-ups to well established multi-nationals.
To date, there are less than 800 MW of installed WHP at fewer than 100 locations in the U.S. A recent DOE report identified enough industrial waste heat in the U.S. to generate nearly 20 times that amount, or 15,000 MW of electricity. Nearly 40 percent of the states consider waste heat to be a renewable resource and provide incentives for the on-site generation of electricity from waste heat.
To learn more about waste heat to power, visit the Heat is Power Association.
Whether heating our homes, our water or cooking our food, natural gas is essential staple to the way we live.
As America’s most abundant and affordable fuel, natural gas supplies almost one-fourth of all the energy used nationwide, and residents of all 50 states enjoy its many benefits thanks to 2.5 million miles of transitory pipeline. The direct use of natural gas also achieves 92 percent efficiency and also contributes to reducing carbon emissions. It’s estimated that our nation has enough natural gas to meet our ever-growing energy needs for the next 100 years.
To learn more about natural gas’ stature as America’s most abundant and affordable energy source, visit the American Gas Association’s website.
Super-cooled or “liquefied” natural gas (LNG) offers an economic way to move natural gas where pipelines would be impossible. This exciting technology has transformed natural gas into a global commodity and an American success story.
America’s abundance of natural gas has enabled the export of natural gas as LNG to other countries. LNG exports bring economic benefits to the U.S., strengthen the energy security of our international allies and help to improve the global environment by reducing the world’s carbon emissions. LNG is also being used right here in the U.S. as an industrial fuel, as a supplemental fuel for electric and natural gas utilities and as a transportation fuel for vehicles and ships, along with many other uses. For more information, visit the Center for LNG’s website.
Nuclear energy is critical to meeting the goals of a clean-energy e economy because—like wind, solar and hydropower—it is emission-free. Today, nuclear energy generates nearly 60% of the emission-free electricity in the United States, making it the largest clean-air energy source in the country.
And nuclear energy is the only source that can produce large amounts of electricity around the clock. It’s a secure energy source that we can depend on 24 hours a day because it isn’t subject to changing weather conditions or disruptions to the fuel supply. Thanks to this unique combination of reliability and environmental protection, nuclear energy is the lynchpin of a diverse and reliable electric grid.
Nuclear energy is also powerful economic engine, providing 100,000 well-paying American jobs and $40 billion to $50 billion each year in electricity sales and revenue. Jobs and local tax revenues generated by our nuclear fleet are a lifeline to small-town America, paying for vital local services like law enforcement and public schools.
We are proud of the difference the men and women of the industry are making to provide clean air energy to protect human health and the environment. To learn more about the benefits associated with nuclear energy, visit the Nuclear Energy Institute’s website.
Propane has been providing clean, efficient energy to our homes and businesses and on our farms for more than 100 years – and now, renewable propane offers an even lower carbon option for energy consumers around the world.
Propane is used in approximately 50 million households and businesses for heat and water heating, indoor and outdoor cooking, clothes drying, and backup power. On the farm, propane is used to run pumps and engines, heat buildings, and dry and process crops, and it is an excellent pest control option, especially in organic farming. Propane autogas is the third most popular vehicle fuel worldwide behind gasoline and diesel, commonly used to fuel buses, light- and medium-duty trucks, vans, shuttles, taxicabs, and police and government vehicles. For vehicles, there are thousands of propane autogas refueling stations across the U.S., and propane autogas is the only alternative fuel with fueling stations in every state.
Propane production keeps quality jobs in our country. Nearly 50,000 workers across the U.S. are employed in propane production, transportation, and distribution. The U.S. is the world’s leading producer and exporter of propane, with our country becoming a net exporter of propane in 2011.
To learn more about propane’s clean, efficient, and economical benefits, visit the National Propane Gas Association’s website.
America is home to some of the richest solar resources in the world. Modern technology can harness this energy for a variety of uses, including generating electricity, providing light or a comfortable interior environment, and heating water for domestic, commercial, or industrial use. A solar panel system typically has a 25-30 year lifespan.
There are several ways to harness solar energy: photovoltaics (also called solar electric), solar heating & cooling, concentrating solar power (typically built at utility-scale), and passive solar. The first three are active solar systems, which use mechanical or electrical devices that convert the sun’s heat or light to another form of usable energy. Passive solar buildings are designed and oriented to collect, store, and distribute the heat energy from sunlight to maintain the comfort of the occupants without the use of moving parts or electronics.
Solar energy is a flexible energy technology: solar power plants can be built as distributed generation (located at or near the point of use) or as a central-station, utility-scale solar power plant (similar to traditional power plants). Some utility-scale solar plants can store the energy they produce for use after the sun sets.
To learn more about how solar is captured, stored and affordably generated for consumers across America, please visit the Solar Energy Industries Association’s website.
Waste-to-energy is a reliable and renewable form of energy that has become the basis for many of the most successful solid waste management systems in the country. Today, 76 plants throughout the U.S. allow municipalities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of waste sent to landfills, while also financially benefitting the communities they serve.
These facilities require a significant capital investment and are typically the cornerstone of municipal infrastructure in the communities in which they are located. In addition to managing post-recycled waste that would otherwise be landfilled and producing energy, these facilities provide excellent economic benefits to communities. Research conducted by Governmental Advisory Associates highlights that the waste-to-energy industry supports more than 14,000 well-paying jobs that have nearly $890 million in total compensation.
In addition, SWANA’s Applied Research Foundation report, titled “The Economic Development Benefits of Waste-to-Energy Facilities,” concludes that:
Waste-to-energy facilities are economically sound investments that provide multiple financial and environmental benefits to the communities that utilize them. Today, nearly half of the nation’s waste-to-energy facilities are owned by local governments that have invested in this critical municipal infrastructure to achieve long-term solid waste management solutions. These facilities produce clean, renewable energy while reducing waste volume by 90 percent, making them a great option for communities seeking the most advanced technology to manage their post-recycled waste.
To learn more about waste-to-energy visit the Energy Recovery Council’s website.
Wind power manufactures electricity by using the air flows that naturally occur in the earth’s atmosphere. Wind turbine blades capture kinetic energy from the wind and turn it into mechanical energy, spinning a generator that in turn creates electricity.
Wind energy is a renewable form of energy that has many benefits. Power from this clean energy source pumps billions of dollars into our economy every year, particularly into rural areas where over 99 percent of wind farms are located. Over the past decade, the industry has invested an average of over $14 billion annually in new wind projects. In 2016, wind energy supported over 100,000 well-paying American jobs, including 25,000 manufacturing jobs.
Wind energy is a drought-resistant cash crop that farmers and ranchers rely on to make a living and keep their land in the family. During 2016, U.S. wind projects paid at least $245 million in lease payments to landowners. The local taxes they pay help rural communities afford teachers, ambulances, and roads.
To learn more about the strong economic benefits associated with wind power, visit the American Wind Energy Association’s website.