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.

December 12th 2017
Global Trade In Biofuels Featured At International Renewable Mobility Conference

A significant proportion of global energy use, is in transportation. Action is crucially needed to bring about an energy turnaround in this sector and it’s a topic that has moved higher up the political agenda again since Dieselgate, and with growing calls for a rapid introduction of electromobility. In Germany, the Working Group on Energy Balances (AG Energiebilanzen) has calculated the final energy consumption of 728 TWh by the transport sector in 2016. Data from the German Environment Agency (UBA) reveals that over 90 percent of fuel deployed is derived from mineral oil. World-leading experts meeting in a parallel forum at the 15th International Conference on Renewable Mobility will analyse biofuel trading worldwide, examining various perspectives on requirements, the current state of play and forecasts.

December 12th 2017
Renewable Future Challenges UK And Germany To Build Flexibility In Power Systems

A new economic study highlights that future energy systems in the UK and Germany, with very high levels of variable renewable generation, must be complemented by flexible resources, including energy storage. The study was released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). “This study highlights a seismic shift in how power systems will operate in the future. As wind and solar become the cheapest options for power generation, the race is on to develop and deploy the flexible resources that will complement them,” said Albert Cheung, head of global analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

December 10th 2017
EU Parliament Aims Higher For Renewables In Its 2030 Climate And Energy Goals

The European Parliament’s Industry & Energy (ITRE) and Environment (ENVI) committees have voted their position on the Energy Union Governance Regulation, just a week after the ITRE committee called for raising the EU’s 2030 renewable energy target to 35% instead of 27%. The Governance Regulation sets out how EU Member States will deliver the EU’s 2030 Climate and Energy goals including the binding EU renewables target and how they will give visibility to renewable energy investors on post-2020 deployment volumes. The IEA now says that wind will be Europe’s leading electricity source soon after 2030.

December 8th 2017
Tata Power Solar Commissions India’s First Rooftop Solar Carport In Delhi

Tata Power Solar set another landmark by commissioning an unprecedented rooftop solar project in India – a solar carport on the rooftop of the sprawling 70,000 sq.m Unity One mall, in Rohini, Delhi. The unique rooftop carport is estimated to set off 438 tonnes of carbon emissions annually. The company won the bid in an open tender process fielded by Delhi Metro Rail Corporation for multi-level car parking. The project enables the mall to earn on the unused and excess solar electricity produced. It also cuts down the need to install a second meter or an expensive battery storage system as it is directly connected to the local power grid.

December 8th 2017
By 2036, Clean Energy Can Account for 37% of The Energy Mix For Thailand

With a stronger and more ambitious energy development plan, Thailand’s share of renewable energy in total final energy consumption could surpass its national target by a quarter and reach more than 37 percent by 2036, according to a new report published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and the Ministry of Energy of Thailand. Renewable Energy Outlook: Thailand finds that decreasing imports of fossil fuels and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix to 37 percent would improve energy security and reduce the cost of Thailand’s energy system by USD 1.2 billion annually by 2036.



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