EIA data 2018: Wind & solar met 3% of U.S. energy after $50 billion in subsidies – Fossil Fuels 81%


Guest essay by Larry Hamlin

The EIA AEO 2019 report shows that in year 2018 wind and solar energy resources provide about 3% of U.S. total energy consumption while fossil fuel energy resources provide about 81% of total energy use.


The dominate use of fossil fuels in meeting U.S. energy needs remains little changed from a decade ago before use of renewable energy resources became mandated and supported by lucrative government subsidies.

Using additional EIA data the total wind and solar provided energy going back to year 2000 is available which allows an assessment of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) payments to be made.


These PTC’s are defined through Federal Law and amount to $0.023 per Kwh for solar and wind projects that qualify as renewables which started construction before January 1, 2018 and are available for a period of ten years.


PTC subsidies for renewable solar and wind projects in the U.S. have now reached about $50 billion dollars in cumulative payments through year 2018 with these resources providing about 3% of our countries total energy consumption in that year.

Additionally these annual wind and solar subsidiies now total more than $8 billion dollars per year.

Without government driven mandates to use renewables and without generous federal PTC subsidiies which provide for most if not all of the capital cost recovery for these projects few of these plants would be built.


Even in the Alice in Wonderland energy world of California fossil fuels dominate our states total energy consumption accounting for 82% of energy use with that figure also little changed in the last decade.

The fossil fuel energy resources include petroleum, natural gas and coal which are the dominate energy providers for all energy sectors including electricity, transportation, industrial, commercial and residential.

The electricity sector represents the largest single energy use area representing about 38% of total energy use. When addressing the other energy use sectors which are industrial, commercial, residential and transportation the electricity sector components are appropriately divided between these sectors.

Renewables have made little headway in meeting the energy needs associated with other than the electricity sector with all forms of renewables (includes geothermal, wood and wood waste, biogenic municipal waste, other biomass, wind, photovoltaic, and solar thermal sources, excludes conventional large hydro) accounting for only about 6% (with half of that being wind and solar) of total U.S. energy use with the great majority of that total related to the electricity sector.

About 98% of the combined industrial, commercial, residential and transportation sectors energy needs are supplied by non-renewable energy resources.

Conventional large hydro is not included as a renewable in this data as preferred by “renewable purists” because of the large dam reservoirs involved with these resources that provide reliability but offend renewable energy activists. Conventional large hydro projects are not classified as renewable resources eligible for PTC subsidies.

Despite more than a decade of government mandated renewable energy use with lucrative and generous renewable subsidies required these politically driven energy resources have made little progress in defining useful patterns of meeting energy needs largely because of their unreliable and highly limited performance capabilities.

Absent government mandated use and provisions requiring lucrative PTC subsidies renewables would fall flat on their face in the energy markets.

Additionally given that one of the primary political justifications for renewables was their supposedly helpful emissions reduction performance with this claim now completely negated because of the total irrelevance of U.S. and EU emissions levels and growth relative to global emissions outcomes which are driven solely by the world’s developing nations and given the meaningless impact of emissions reductions targets on global temperatures the politically contrived push mandating renewable energy use while hugely subsidizing their high costs and unreliable performance needs to end.