30 June 2017 2017 10:19 AM GMT

US: Clean Energy Now Providing More Electricity Than Nuclear For The First Time

The latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information’s (EIA) “Electric Power Monthly” (with data through April 30, 2017) reveals that – for the first time since the beginning of the nuclear era – renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar – inc. small-scale PV, wind) are now providing a greater share of the nation’s electrical generation than nuclear power.

For the first third of this year, renewables and nuclear power have been running neck-in-neck with renewables providing 20.20% of U.S. net electrical generation during the four-month period (January – April) compared to 20.75% for nuclear power. But in March and April, renewables surpassed nuclear power and have taken a growing lead: 21.60% (renewables) vs. 20.34% (nuclear) in March, and 22.98% (renewables) vs. 19.19% (nuclear) in April.

While renewables and nuclear are each likely to continue to provide roughly one-fifth of the nation’s electricity generation in the near-term, the trend line clearly favours a rapidly expanding market share by renewables. Electrical output by renewables during the first third of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016 has increased by 12.1% whereas nuclear output has dropped by 2.9%.

In fact, nuclear capacity has declined over the last four years, a trend which is projected to continue, regardless of planned new reactor startups. From 2013-16, six reactors permanently ceased operation (Crystal River, Kewaunee, San Onofre-2, San Onofre-3, Vermont Yankee, Fort Calhoun), totalling 4,862 MW of generation capacity. Last year, one new reactor (Watts Bar-2) was connected to the grid (after a 43-year construction period), adding 1,150 MW, for a net decline of 3,712 MW since 2013. Six more reactors are scheduled to close by 2021, totalling 5,234 MW (5.2% of nuclear capacity). Two more reactors totalling 2,240 MW are scheduled to close by 2025.**

In addition, nuclear generators are discussing the potential retirements of several more. Against the planned retirement of 7,274 MW of capacity, four new reactors are in construction, totalling 4,468 MW. The completion of these reactors is in doubt, however, due to billions of dollars in cost overruns and the bankruptcy of designer-builder Westinghouse.

If all reactors being built are ultimately completed, total nuclear generating capacity will decline by at least 2,806 MW (3%) by 2025, planned additions against planned retirements. If these projects are cancelled, nuclear capacity will decline by at least 7,274 MW (7.2%) from 2017, accounting for roughly 57,000 TMWh/year of generation.

On the other hand, almost all renewable energy sources are experiencing strong growth rates. Comparing the first four months of 2017 to the same period in 2016, solar has grown by 37.9%, wind by 14.2%, hydropower by 9.5%, and geothermal by 5.3%. Biomass (inc. wood and wood-derived fuels) has remained essentially unchanged – slipping by just 0.3%.

In recent years, the strong growth rates of both solar and wind have resulted in new records being set virtually every month. For the second month in a row, solar and wind combined provided more than 10% of the nation’s electrical generation. In March 2017, those sources provided 10.04% of the nation’s electrical generation. That record was eclipsed in April when solar and wind reached nearly 11 percent (10.92%) of total generation. And, for the first time, wind and solar combined have provided more electricity year-to-date (113,971 thousand megawatt-hours (TMWh)) than has hydropower (111,750 TMWh).

In April, solar alone reached another milestone, providing more than two percent (2.33%) of the nation’s electrical supply. Consequently, solar has now moved into third place among renewable sources – behind hydropower and wind but ahead of biomass and geothermal. In April, utility-scale plus small-scale solar provided 20,928 TMWh compared to 20,509 TMWh from biomass and 5,945 TMWh from geothermal.

And not coincidentally, as renewables’ share of electrical generation has grown, that of fossil fuels has declined. Electrical generation by fossil fuels (i.e., coal, natural gas, petroleum liquids + petroleum coke) dropped by 5.2% during the first third of 2017 compared to 2016.

“In light of their growth rates in recent years, it was inevitable that renewable sources would eventually overtake nuclear power,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign.  “The only real surprise is how soon that has happened — years before most analysts ever expected.” “Renewable energy is now surpassing nuclear power, a major milestone in the transformation of the U.S. energy sector,” said Tim Judson, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.  “This gulf will only widen over the next several years, with continued strong growth of renewables and the planned retirement of at least 7% of nuclear capacity by 2025. The possible completion of four new reactors will not be enough to reverse this trend, with total nuclear capacity falling by 2,806 MW (3%) through 2025.”

** Planned nuclear reactor retirements (state – capacity – year): Palisades (MI, 811-MW, 2018), Pilgrim (MA, 688-MW, 2019), Oyster Creek (NJ, 637-MW, 2019), Three Mile Island 1 (PA, 829-MW, 2019), Indian Point 2 (NY, 1,028-MW, 2020), Indian Point 3 (NY, 1,040-MW, 2021), Diablo Canyon 1 (CA 1,118-MW, 2024), Diablo Canyon 2 (CA, 1,122-MW, 2025).

The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organisation founded in 1992 to aggressively promote sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels. Founded in 1978, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) provides information  and analysis on energy and radioactive waste, and monitor policy developments on the national and state levels.

January 22nd 2018
EV, Renewables See CO2 Emissions Plateau By 2030, But Far From 2 Degree Pathway

Major shifts in the global energy landscape, particularly related to electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable energy sources, mean that MEI expects global CO₂emissions to plateau by 2030. However, increased global energy demand means emissions will remain at more than double the level required for a 2 degrees Celsius warming pathway. Ole Rolser, Associate Partner and Solution Leader at MEI, comments: “Despite the significant momentum around EVs and renewable energy sources taking an increasing share of the power market, to realise the 2 degrees pathway scenario, we’d have to see much broader, much more disruptive change than what we’re seeing now.”

January 22nd 2018
European Parliament Gives A Resounding Vote In Favour Of Clean Energy In Europe

European lawmakers have called for a renewable energy target of 35% for 2030 – rather than the 27% which the European Commission proposed in 2016. The MEPs have now backed measures substantially raising the European Union’s clean-energy ambitions. By 2030, more than one-third of energy consumed in the EU should be from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. The measures are intended to help cut carbon dioxide emissions. The EU is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States, releasing about 10% of global emissions. 

January 19th 2018
Chinese Solar Surge Fuels Overall Global Growth In Clean Energy Investment

World clean energy investment totalled $333.5 billion last year, up 3% from 2016 and the second highest annual figure ever, taking cumulative investment since 2010 to $2.5 trillion. An extraordinary boom in photovoltaic installations made 2017 a record year for China’s investment in clean energy. This outpaced changes elsewhere, including jumps in investment in Australia and Mexico, and declines in Japan, the U.K. and Germany. The figures up 3% from a revised $324.6 billion in 2016, and only 7% short of the record figure of $360.3 billion, in 2015.

December 27th 2017
Rooftop PV Presents a $23 Billion Opportunity in India Over The Next 5 Years

India is accelerating development of renewable energy projects to provide cheap, reliable and clean power to its 1.3 billion people. The country’s per-capita on-grid electricity consumption has increased significantly over the four years; due to increased industrial activity, higher uptake of electrical appliances by residential electricity users and the addition of new consumers to the grid. During this period, the cost of electricity from rooftop PV has halved, due to fierce competition in the market and a drop in equipment prices. In contrast, average retail electricity rates have increased by 22% in the same period. This has made rooftop PV cheaper than commercial and industrial grid tariffs in all major states in India.

January 8th 2018
Vestas Sets 10.6 GW Record In 2017 After Year-End Surge; Ups Cashflow Guidance

Vestas has received a firm and unconditional order for 190 MW of 4 MW platform turbines in the U.S. taking the global order intake for the company in 2017 to 10.6 GW, surpassing 2016’s record order intake of 10.5 GW. The surge of orders at the end of the year has resulted in the company revising its guidance for free cashflow upwards. It now expects the free cashflow for 2017 to be €1.15bn-€1.25bn, as compared with the previous guidance of €450m-€900m. Markets have reacted favourably with the company share price experiencing an increase of 5%. 



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