IEA's World Energy Outlook 2012 generated a flurry of stories about the prediction the U.S. will emerge as the world's leading oil producer by 2020. While it is important news, it is only one of several profound shifts occuring in global energy markets.

Iea_2012WEO_US_electricity_capacity

Equally profound, though less reported, was the fundemental shift in the role of renewables in electricity generation. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Renewables (mostly wind and solar) account for almost half (47%) of the global increase in power generation between now and 2035.
  • By 2025 renewables will be the second largest source of electricity worldwide, providing 27% of all electricity compared to coal at 36%.
  • In the U.S. by 2025, renewables will provide 18% of total electricity, third behind coal and natural gas. However, renewables will surpass coal to become second only to natural gas in terms of total U.S. generating capacity.

There's no doubt about it when you look at the data. We've entered the era of mainstream renewable energy--an era when renewables play a leading role in generating the electric power we use every day.

Just as there is a fundamental shift in production of oil and gas, a fundamental change has also occured in the last few years for renewables. It is no longer appropriate to call renewables 'alternative' or 'new' because they're solidly in the middle of the conventional energy mix.