Renewable energy provides just over 6 percent of total U.S. energy, but that figure could increase rapidly, according to a new report by the Worldwatch Institute and the Center for American Progress, “American Energy: The Renewable Path to Energy Security.”

Many of the new technologies that harness renewables are, or soon will be, economically competitive with fossil fuels. Dynamic growth rates are driving down costs and spurring rapid advances in technologies. “With oil prices soaring, the security risks of petroleum dependence growing, and the environmental costs of today’s fuels becoming more apparent, the country faces compelling reasons to put these technologies to use on a larger scale,” notes the report.

Some of the highlights:

  • Global wind energy generation has more than tripled since 2000, providing enough electricity to power the homes of about 3 million Americans. The United States led the world in wind energy installations in 2005.
  • Production of electricity-generating solar cells is one of the world’s fastest growing industries, up 45 percent in 2005 to six times the level in 2000.
  • One-fourth of U.S. land area has winds powerful enough to generate electricity as cheaply as natural gas and coal, and the solar resources of just seven southwest states could provide 10 times the current electric generating capacity.
  • Production of fuel ethanol from crops more than doubled between 2000 and 2005, and biodiesel from vegetable oil and waste expanded nearly four-fold over this period.
  • Global investment in renewable energy (excluding large hydropower) in 2005 is estimated at $38 billion—equivalent to nearly 20 percent of total annual investment in the electric power sector. Renewable energy investments have nearly doubled over the past three years, and have increased six-fold since 1995
  • Renewable energy manufacturing, operations, and maintenance provide approximately two million jobs worldwide.

The renewable revolution is truly underway.