Renewable energy is fast gaining popularity over nuclear power, according to two new reports from U.S agencies.
The latest Monthly Energy Review from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) notes that during the first six months of this year, renewable sources (biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind) accounted for 5.242 quadrillion Btus (quads) of domestic energy production. This includes thermal, liquid, and electrical forms of energy. By comparison, nuclear power provided only 4.188 quads. That is, renewables outpaced nuclear by more than 25 percent.
Meanwhile, the latest Energy Infrastructure Update from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reveals that the total available installed generating capacity in the U.S. from the combination of utility-scale (i.e., greater than 1-MW) hydropower, wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal has grown to 215.82 gigawatts (GW) or 18.39 percent of total generating capacity. Nuclear power’s installed capacity is only107.06 GW or 9.12 percent of the total. Thus, renewable energy generating capacity is now more than double that of nuclear.
However, actual electrical generation by nuclear plants for the first seven months of 2016 is 19.9 percent of total generation. That is still higher than that provided by renewable sources which contributed 15.8 percent (a figure which does not include electricity produced by distributed renewables such as rooftop solar).
But while nuclear power’s share of net electrical generation has remained essentially flat over the past decade — e.g., it was 19.4 percent in 2006, renewable energy’s share is growing rapidly — increasing from 9.5 percent ten years ago to 15.8 percent today — with EIA forecasting continued strong growth in the years ahead.
“If renewable sources maintain their current growth rates, they could fully eclipse nuclear in the trifecta of not only energy supply and generating capacity but also electricity production within the next five or six years … or less,” said Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign.