Environmental Integrity

Renewable Energy - A Primer

Types and Benefits of Renewable Energy

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TITLE:  Renewable Energy – A Primer

AUTHOR: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

SOURCE: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy

COPYRIGHT: No protection is claimed in original U.S. Government works.


Renewable energy is energy produced from sources like the sun and wind that are naturally replenished and do not run out. Renewable energy can be used for electricity generation, space and water heating and cooling, and transportation.

Non-renewable energy, in contrast, comes from finite sources that could get used up, such as fossil fuels like coal and oil.

Types of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy sources, such as biomass, geothermal resources, sunlight, water, and wind, are natural resources that can be converted into these types of clean, usable energy:

  • Bioenergy
  • Geothermal Energy
  • Hydrogen
  • Hydropower
  • Marine Energy
  • Solar Energy
  • Wind Energy

Benefits of Renewable Energy

The advantages of renewable energy are numerous and affect the economy, environment, national security, and human health. Here are some of the benefits of using renewable energy in the United States:

  • Enhanced reliability, security, and resilience of the nation’s power grid
  • Job creation throughout renewable energy industries 
  • Reduced carbon emissions and air pollution from energy production
  • Increased U.S. energy independence
  • Increased affordability, as many types of renewable energy are cost-competitive with traditional energy sources
  • Expanded clean energy access for non-grid-connected or remote, coastal, or islanded communities.

Renewable Energy in the United States

Renewable energy generates about 20% of all U.S. electricity, and that percentage continues to grow. The following graphic breaks down the shares of total electricity production in 2021 among the types of renewable power:

The United States is a resource-rich country with abundant renewable energy resources. The amount available is 100 times that of the nation’s annual electricity need.