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Renewable Energy Industries: A Research Guide

This guide to researching the business of generating and distributing renewable energy focuses on resources related to hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass industries as well as the electric power sector in the United States.


Harris & Ewing, photographer. Dr. Charles G. Abbot (right), Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, with his solar heat engine that was shown at the Third World Power Conference on September 8, 1936... 1936. Harris & Ewing Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Renewable energy is generated by sources that can be replenished within a relatively short period of time. Solar, wind, water, biomass, and geothermal are all renewable energy sources.1 Green energy, while similar to renewable energy, is a subset of sources that have the highest environmental benefits.2 Clean energy sources emit low carbon, and include renewable energy sources along with nuclear power.3

Renewable energy sources have been used to generate heat and power for much of human history, and more relatively recently, electricity. Renewable energy makes up 12% of primary energy use in the United States and 11% worldwide.4 While there is still a strong dependence on fossil fuels for heating, electricity and transportation, the oil crises of the 1970s pushed for stronger investment into alternative energy sources. Additionally, the negative effects of climate change have increased public demand in finding non-fossil fuel based energy, aided by government incentives and standards.5

This guide focuses on resources relevant to researching the business of generating and distributing renewable energy. To that end, there are sections of this guide about the power grid and the electric power sector which consumes energy in order to generate and sell electricity. This guide does not include technical or engineering information on developing renewable energy technologies. Information on the power grid, climate change, and energy policy are included as they relate to the renewable energy industry. For information on corporate responsibility, which includes businesses that use renewable or green energies, see Corporate Social Responsibility: A Resource Guide. Additional information on green businesses is in Green Business: Sources of Information. Most of the guide takes a U.S. perspective, but international sources are included throughout.

For an excellent overview U.S. energy sources, there have been a number of Congressional Research Service reports on renewable energy topics, including:

About the Business Section

Part of the Science & Business Reading Room at the Library of Congress, the Business Section is the starting point for conducting research at the Library of Congress in the subject areas of business and economics. Here, reference specialists in specific subject areas of business assist patrons in formulating search strategies and gaining access to the information and materials contained in the Library's rich collections of business and economics materials.


  1. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "What is Renewable Energy?" (2021, May 21). Back to text
  2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Renewable Energy at EPA," Back to text
  3. U.S. Department of Energy, "Clean Energy." Back to text
  4. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Table 2.1 Primary Energy Production by Source, (July 2021); Our World in Data: Renewable Energy, "Renewable Energy GenerationExternal," Back to text
  5. Congressional Research Service, 21st Century U.S. Energy Sources: A Primer, R44854 (2018).  Back to text