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Renewable Energy to Surpass Coal and Nuclear by 2030: 7 Key Takeaways from EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2016

As a certified energy geek, I always look forward to this time of year. On July 11 and 12, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is holding their annual conference to discuss current energy technology, market, and policy issues, and will present results from their new Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2016 report.

One of the headlines this year is EIA's new projections for renewable energy, which under their reference case is expected to surpass nuclear power by 2020 and coal by 2028 to become the second largest source of U.S. electricity generation after natural gas.

Here are seven key takeaways from AEO 2016 that explain why EIA is projecting such a large increase in renewable energy this year:

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The Best Way To Teach Adults To Save Energy Might Be Through Their Children

It's hard to get people to change their habits, even when doing so could have lasting benefits for the environment. But a team of scientists may have just found a way to hack it when it comes to helping families develop better energy-saving practices at home. The trick, according to them, is to have children help deliver the message.

In a new study involving 30 California Girl Scout troops, researchers demonstrated that interventions targeting youth can help promote energy-saving actions in both children and their parents, with concrete behavioral changes lasting for months after an intervention takes place. The research highlights the idea that youth-oriented environmental programs can have a tangible impact on entire families.

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Shedding Light On Solar Power

There has probably never been a better time to switch to solar. Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have regulations that are solar-friendly enough (and electricity rates high enough) to make residential solar financially attractive (see map below), and last December Congress extended through 2021 the generous federal tax credits on solar projects that had been set to expire at the end of this year. Residential solar installations increased almost 60 percent between 2014 and 2015, and in 2015 America averaged one new residential solar installation about every 100 seconds.

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Offshore Wind Power Cost-Cut Plan Gets Boost From Big Utilities

Nine of the world's biggest offshore wind farm developers joined with the Scottish government to fund a 7.9 million-pound ($10.3 million) study aimed at curbing the costs of the expensive renewable energy technology.

Companies including Dong Energy A/S, EON SE, Iberdola SA and RWE AG, will together invest at least 6.4 million pounds over the next four years to fund the research and development of new technologies. The Scottish government will pitch in another 1.5 million pounds, according to a joint statement Monday.

The intention is to cut the cost of the technology below 100 pounds a megawatt-hour by 2020, putting it within striking distance of nuclear reactors. EnBW Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG, SSE Plc, Statkraft AS, Statoil, ASA and Vattenfall AB are also funding the program, according to the statement.

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UK Tidal Wave Project Will Propel Renewables to New Levels

Harnessing tidal power for clean energy has recently taken a huge step forward in the UK, the world's leading region for development of this important new renewable resource. The MeyGen Tidal Array Project is fast moving toward the final construction of its demonstration phase, which will be the first time that underwater turbines sited together in a full-scale array have been tested.

Situated in the Pentland Firth in Scotland, this ground-breaking test project is supported by £10 million funding from the UK's Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC). It is expected to significantly advance the technology and knowledge of the marine energy sector, as well as provide clean power for up to 175,000 homes in Scotland when expanded and completed.

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Gov. Brownback: Wind Power Could Supply 50% of Kansas Electricity

Kansas has long been one of America's wind power leaders; its installed capacity has doubled four times in the last 10 years, and it's about to double again. In 2015, wind supplied nearly 24% of the state's electricity, and according to Gov. Sam Brownback, that number will exceed 30% in 2016.

And reaching 50% may not be far off.

Speaking at the American Council on Renewable Energy's (ACORE) recent Renewable Energy Finance Forum, Gov. Brownback said he believes generating half of Kansas's electricity using wind is "doable" and he expects it to happen. He noted that Kansas is "going to be aggressively recruiting and working with [wind] companies," and working on transmission build-out to better enable the wind industry to grow even faster.

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MGM Resorts Beats Toys 'R' Us With Biggest Rooftop Solar System

MGM Resorts International surpassed Toys "R" Us Inc. with the largest U.S. rooftop solar installation, an 8.3-megawatt system complete this week.

With an expansion that included more than 26,000 panels covering 28 acres atop the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, MGM broke the record that the toy seller had held since 2011 with a 6.2 megawatt system at a distribution center in Flanders, New Jersey, according to GTM Research.

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Solar Power Is Finding Its Day in the Sun

Solar power is on pace for the first time this year to contribute more new electricity to the grid than will any other form of energy—a feat driven more by economics than green mandates.

The cost of electricity from large-scale solar installations now is comparable to and sometimes cheaper than natural gas-fired power, even without incentives aimed at promoting environmentally friendly power, according to industry players and outside cost studies.

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DOE Issues Updates to Its Loan Guarantee Programs

The Loan Program Office ("LPO") of the U.S. Department of Energy ("DOE") recently introduced a number of important updates to the Loan Guarantee Solicitation for Applications for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficient Projects (the "Renewable Energy Program") as well as to the Loan Guarantee Solicitation for Applications for Advanced Fossil Energy Projects (the "Advanced Fossil Program") (together, the "Solicitations"). The Solicitations were issued pursuant to Title XVII of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. These updates include the recent extension of the submission deadlines for Part 1 and Part 2 of the applications, the payment schedule of applicable fees under the Facility Plan, and clarification concerning the prohibition against using additional federal support concurrently with the loan guarantee.

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