When President Obama was sworn into office it was clear that the U.S. economy was in trouble. One of his first acts was to create and pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a sweeping piece of legislation signed into law that helped right the U.S. economy. In doing so, he committed more than $90 billion to renewable and clean energy—the biggest clean energy investment in U.S. history!
The investment strategy worked. It’s already leveraged more than $150 billion in private and non-federal investments while increasing employment across the country and has create more than 900,000 job years between 2009 and 2015. That’s according to a new report out from the White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA). The report estimated that the Recovery Act raised the level of the U.S. gross domestic product by between 2 and 3 percent from late 2009 through mid-2011.
One of the biggest components of the act was supporting renewable energy generation, like new wind and solar installations. To that end the act provided loan guarantees to support more than $40 billion in investments and tax credits. This led, according to CEA findings, to more than 100,000 renewable energy projects across the U.S.
It also led to some of the largest solar and wind installations in the world, like the 290-megawatt Agua Caliente Photovoltaic Solar Plant, which received a $967 million DOE loan guarantee. CEA added that DOE “Loans jumpstarted the utility-scale PV solar market, financing the first five utility-scale PV projects larger than 100 MW in the United States. Today, there are 28 utility-scale PV plants in the U.S. larger than 100 MW, all financed privately.”
“Since 2008, solar electricity generation has increased over 30 times and wind generation has increased over three times. In fact, renewable energy accounted for more than half of new installed power sector capacity in 2015,” CEA reported.
The report also observed that the investments have led to a drop in renewable energy costs, making them more competitive with fossil fuels. “Since 2008, the cost of utility-scale solar PV installations has fallen nearly 60 percent. In fact, solar is currently at grid parity in 20 U.S. states and 42 states are expected to reach that milestone by 2020 under business-as-usual conditions. Battery costs for electric vehicles have fallen from almost $1,000/kWh in 2008 to under $300/kWh in 2014. The cost reductions for these and other technologies resulted from a number of factors—including economies of scale, technology learning, and new business practices—that were assisted by the widespread deployment made possible through the Recovery Act,” CEA said.