Study: US renewables demand to triple

Consulting firm IHS estimates that renewable portfolio standards will be ‘the most critical driver’ of the growth in renewable energy demand, which will grow to 479 terawatt hours in 2025. IHS estimates that the demand will only top 137 terawatt hours by the end of 2010.

Demand for renewable energy generation will more than triple in the next 15 years as a result of the growing trend for states to require a portion of their electric supply to come from renewable energy sources, according to a new study released by consulting firm IHS.

IHS said in a statement renewable portfolio standards, or RPS, will be “the most critical driver” of the pace of growth for the renewable energy sector in the US. As of June 2010, 31 states and the district of Columbia have passed such laws and six additional states are approving conditional or non-mandatory renewables goals.

Extrapolating forward, IHS estimates that cumulative demand for renewable energy across all states with RPS policies will grow from an expected 137 terawatt hours in 2010 to 479 terawatt hours in 2025, or about 3.5 times.

A terawatt is equivalent to a trillion watts. To put that in perspective, a simple 100 watt light bulb will consume 876,000 watts if it is left on all year. One terawatt would therefore be enough to leave about 1.1 million light bulbs on all year round. And 479 terawatts would power about 550 million lightbulbs for one year, or nearly two for every person in the US today.

By contrast, the 137 terawatt hours of renewable demand in 2010 wouldn’t even power a single light bulb for each person in the US.

IHS added that RPS policies create “gradually intensifying compliance pressure across the US” for utilities to procure energy from renewable sources. The firm estimates that more than 1,000 investor-owned utilities and other electricity suppliers will need to procure renewable power over the next decade in order to comply with the RPS laws.