There was an interesting article in the latest Fortune magazine discussing the renewables efforts of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. (See here.) According to the article, Berkshire Hathaway has spent $17B on renewable energy since 2004, and the company is on track to spend $1B in 2016. One of the big reasons behind all of this construction are government tax credits, and Berkshire recognized $336M of these in 2016.
While the article is primarily about Berkshire’s renewables efforts, it also contrasts these with Elon Musk’s distributed solar and battery work.
P. 162 of the magazine has a chart showing how the mix of renewable energy in the US has changed over the last decade. (You can find the chart here.) While the growth in wind and solar shown in the chart is substantial, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at the data from a bigger perspective. To start off, here is a chart showing US energy use from all sources since 1986. From this chart you can see that renewables are still a very small piece of the US energy mix. Wind has obviously made a substantial increase, but it pales in comparison to the increase in natural gas consumption over the same period.
To help see the details of the different renewable sources, here is the same chart without the fossil or nuclear sources.
In this chart is a little easier to see the increase from these different sources. Also note, I included geothermal in my chart, which I feel really should considered renewable.
Now most of the renewable sources are used for electricity generation, so here is what the mix of energy sources looks like just for electricity. Petroleum is essentially removed by looking just electricity, but still, the renewable sources are a very small part of the picture. (The data set for electricity generation does not go as far back as the energy set, so this chart just goes back to 2001)
Here’s the same chart again with just the renewables.
Winds big move is definitely easier to see in this last chart, but again, the increase in natural gas usage really makes the wind change seem small.