30 August 2017 2017 10:45 AM GMT

US Electricity Generation – Renewables Level With Nuclear; Solar Growth Surges

The latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information’s (EIA)Electric Power Monthly” (with data through June 30, 2017) reveals that renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar – inc. small-scale PV, and wind) remain in a statistical dead heat with nuclear power vis-à-vis their respective shares of the nation’s electricity generation, with each providing roughly 20% of the total. [1a] and [1b]

During the six-month period (January – June), renewables surpassed nuclear power in three of those months (March, April, and May) while nuclear power took the lead in the other three. In total, according to EIA’s data, utility-scale renewables plus small-scale solar PV provided 20.05% of U.S. net electricity generation compared to 20.07% for nuclear power. However, renewables may actually hold a small lead because while EIA estimates the contribution from distributed PV, it does not include electrical generation by distributed wind, micro-hydro, or small-scale biomass.

EIA has acknowledged the neck-in-neck status of nuclear power and renewables and stated as much in a news release it issued in early summer. However, the agency simultaneously stressed its view that “nuclear will generate more electricity than renewables for all of 2017.” [2]. Well, maybe ….  maybe not.

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 favors a rapidly expanding market share by renewables compared to a stagnating, if not declining, one for nuclear power. Electrical output by renewables during the first half of 2017 was 16.34% higher than for the same period in 2016 whereas nuclear output dropped by 3.27%. In the month of June alone, electrical generation by renewable sources was 27.15% greater than a year earlier whereas nuclear output dipped by 0.24%.

In fact, almost all renewable energy sources are experiencing strong growth rates. Comparing the first six months of 2017 to the same period in 2016, utility-scale + small-scale solar has grown by 45.1%, hydropower by 16.1%, wind by 15.6%, and geothermal by 3.2%. Biomass (inc. wood and wood-derived fuels) has remained essentially unchanged – slipping by 0.8%. Electrical generation by solar alone is now greater than that provided individually by biomass, geothermal, and oil (i.e., petroleum liquids + petroleum coke).

And on the capacity front, renewables long ago eclipsed nuclear power. For the first half of 2017, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissions recently reported that renewables’ share of total U.S. available installed generating capacity is 19.70% compared to 8.98% for nuclear — i.e., more than double. [3]

Finally, last month’s cancellation of the Summer 2 and 3 reactors in South Carolina and Duke Power’s subsequent decision to pull the plug on construction of the twin William Lee reactors (also in South Carolina) means the growing gap between renewables and nuclear will accelerate at an even faster clip in the coming years. In addition, the possible cancellation of the uneconomic Vogtle 3 and 4 reactors in Georgia would mean no new nuclear coming online for the foreseeable future, as reactor closures continue. In fact, counting possible additional closures and cancellations, retirements could very likely exceed additions.

“Everyone loves a horse race,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign.  “However, the smart money is now on renewables to soon leave nuclear power in the dust.” “Nuclear power is in irreversible decline in the U.S., due to rising costs and failing economics of new and existing reactors, alike,” said Tim Judson, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “Last month’s cancellation of half the new reactors under construction in the U.S. means that gap is going to be wider than projected and accelerating.”

The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization 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 US national and state levels.

May 20th 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 10th 2018
US: Doubling Of Wind & Solar Capacity Possible By 2020 as Coal & Nuclear Drop

In the latest issue of its “Energy Infrastructure Update” (with data through November 30, 2017), the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) notes that proposed net additions to generating capacity by utility-scale wind and solar could total 115,984 megawatts (MW) by December 2020 – effectively doubling their current installed capacity of 115,520 MW.  The numbers were released as FERC prepares for a January 10 meeting to consider U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s proposal for a bailout of the coal and nuclear industries.

August 15th 2018
Electrification The Key To Decarbonising Europe’s Economy

Electrification is the key to decarbonising Europe’s economy, according to WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson. He said: “according to the IEA, wind will be the #1 source of electricity soon after 2030, providing more than 30% of Europe’s electricity, but electricity is only 22% of the final energy needed by Europe’s economy. Political momentum is starting to grow for an EU target of net-zero emissions in 2050. To do this we’ll need to electrify heating and transport, where the share of renewables is just 18% and 6% respectively; that has to be the #1 priority”.

December 6th 2017
Renewables Provide 17.8% Of Total US Electricity. Solar Now 2.0% And Wind 6.0%

According to the latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) “Electric Power Monthly” report, U.S. electrical generation from renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar – inc. distributed solar, wind) rose by 14.69% during the first three-quarters of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Simultaneously, electrical generation by fossil fuels and nuclear power combined declined by 5.41%. Nuclear power and coal both dropped by 1.5%, natural gas (including “other” gas) was down by 10.7%, and oil (i.e., petroleum liquids and petroleum coke) plunged by 17.1%.

July 28th 2018
IRENA: Clean Energy Deployment, Core To Sustainable Development Goals

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has highlighted the contribution renewables make to sustainable development and the substantial, cross-sectoral socio-economic benefits of energy transition during the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development. The meeting took place at UN headquarters in New York recently and reviewed the implementation of key Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), including SDG 7 – access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy; and also underscored the importance of accelerating renewable energy deployment to realise the SDG landmarks.

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