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Friday, January 22, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Fred Sissine, Coordinator
Specialist in Energy Policy

The energy crises of the 1970s spurred the federal government, and some state governments, to mount a variety of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies to address concerns about oil import dependence, high energy prices, and overall energy security. Since then, additional economic and environmental concerns—especially international competitiveness, air pollution, and climate change—have also driven policy proposals to support efficiency and renewables. As the nation seeks to reduce imported energy and to increase production from "clean" domestic sources, there may continue to be interest in additional federal spending, tax incentives, and regulatory measures to further expand renewable energy use and help overcome market barriers to efficiency measures. Also, any future efforts to create a capand- trade program for greenhouse gas emissions could include auctions of emission credits to generate revenue that could, in part, be used to fund renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives. 

Renewable energy is derived from resources that are generally not depleted by human use, such as the sun, wind, and water movement. These primary sources of energy can be converted into heat, electricity, and mechanical energy in several ways. There are some mature technologies for conversion of renewable energy such as hydropower, biomass, and waste combustion. Other conversion technologies, such as wind turbines and photovoltaics, are already well developed, but they have not achieved the technological efficiency and market penetration that many expect they will ultimately reach. Although geothermal energy is produced from geological rather than solar sources, it is often included as a renewable energy resource. Marine/hydrokinetic (river currents and wave, tidal, and ocean thermal) energy has recently emerged as a potential renewable energy resource. Renewable energy sources provide nearly 7% of the nation's energy use. About 36% of renewable energy production is supplied by conventional hydropower and about 47% is supplied by biomass (mainly wood use for heating).

Date of Report: January 12, 2010
Number of Pages: 5
Order Number: IS40382
Price: $7.95

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