Quantcast
Popular

Electricity From Renewables and Nuclear Power in Statistical Dead Heat

The latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information's (EIA) Electric Power Monthly (with data through June 30) 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 electrical generation, with each providing roughly 20 percent of the total.

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 percent of U.S. net electrical generation compared to 20.07 percent 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."

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 percent higher than for the same period in 2016 whereas nuclear output dropped by 3.27 percent. In the month of June alone, electrical generation by renewable sources was 27.15 percent greater than a year earlier whereas nuclear output dipped by 0.24 percent.

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 percent, hydropower by 16.1 percent, wind by 15.6 percent and geothermal by 3.2 percent. Biomass (inc. wood and wood-derived fuels) has remained essentially unchanged—slipping by 0.8 percent. 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 percent compared to 8.98 percent for nuclear—i.e., more than double. 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."

*Planned reactor closures through 2025:

  • 2018: Palisades (Michigan - 811 MW)
  • 2019: Pilgrim (Massachusetts - 688 MW); Oyster Creek (New Jersey - 637 MW); Three Mile Island, Unit 1 (Pennsylvania - 829 MW)
  • 2020: Indian Point, Unit 2 (New York - 1,029 MW)
  • 2021: Indian Point, Unit 3 (New York - 1,040 MW)
  • 2024: Diablo Canyon, Unit 1 (California - 1,118 MW)
  • 2025: Diablo Canyon, Unit 2 (California - 1,122 MW)
  • TOTAL Capacity Retirements: 7,274 MW

Planned reactor additions:

  • 2016: Watts Bar, Unit 2 (Tennessee - 1,150 MW)
  • ????: Vogtle, Unit 3 (Georgia - 1,117 MW) - delayed, cancellation under review
  • ????: Vogtle, Unit 4 (Georgia - 1,117 MW) - delayed, cancellation under review
  • TOTAL Capacity Additions: 3,384 MW (as few as 1,150 MW possible)

Possible reactor closures:

  • 2022 or later: Millstone, Unit 2 (Connecticut - 882 MW)
  • 2022 or later: Millstone, Unit 3 (Connecticut - 1,198 MW)
  • ????: Davis-Besse (Ohio - 889 MW)
  • ????: Perry (Ohio - 1,231 MW)
  • ????: Beaver Valley, Unit 1 (Pennsylvania - 911 MW)
  • ????: Beaver Valley, Unit 2 (Pennsylvania - 904 MW)
  • TOTAL Additional Retirements: 6,015 MW
Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Scientists have been shocked at the depth and size of the Amazon reef. Greenpeace

Amazon Reef: BP Drilling Plans Dealt Another Blow by Brazilian Regulator

By Joe Sandler Clarke, Unearthed

BP's plans to drill for oil near a huge coral reef in the mouth of Amazon river have been dealt a further blow after a regulator questioned the company's environmental risk assessment.

Ibama, Brazil's federal environmental agency, rejected an environmental study from the British oil giant, further delaying the company's plans to drill in the region.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Judge Stops Walmart Shopping Center From Being Built on Endangered Florida Forest

Environmentalists cheered after a Miami district court judge issued an emergency injunction on Friday to stop bulldozers from razing a stretch of endangered pine rocklands—one of the world's rarest forests, and home to species found nowhere else on Earth—to make way for a Walmart shopping center near Zoo Miami and Everglades National Park.

Judge Ursula Ungaro's decision was made only hours after the Center for Biological Diversity, Tropical Audubon Society, Miami Pine Rocklands Coalition and South Florida Wildlands Association sued the Trump administration for approving the proposed Coral Reef Commons.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular

Investigation: Actual Death Toll From Hurricane Maria Is Close to 1,000 in Puerto Rico

The official death toll from Hurricane Maria has risen to 64, Puerto Rican authorities announced Saturday, factoring in two additional "indirect" deaths from the storm to previously announced numbers.

However, the official number of deaths, which critics say is suspiciously low considering the damage from the storm, is coming under some scrutiny: both a Center for Investigative Journalism report published Thursday and a New York Times review of mortality data published Friday estimate the actual death toll to be closer to 1,000.

Keep reading... Show less

WATCH LIVE: Can the Courts Bring About a Climate Fix? Three Judges Are About to Decide

By John Light

Editor's note: Watch the oral arguments live beginning at 1 p.m. EST above.

Three judges in San Francisco potentially have the power to decide how the U.S. government deals with climate change. Monday, 21 young Americans will make the case that President Trump has endangered their future by aiding and abetting the dirty industries responsible for the global crisis. And they will argue that they can hold him legally accountable.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Oil Change International

12 Projects That Undermine the One Planet Summit and Put the Climate at Risk

As world leaders and global financial institutions gather for the One Planet Summit on Dec. 12 in Paris, civil society groups have come together under the Big Shift Global campaign to underscore the massive finance gap remaining to shift away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, in line with the aim of the Paris agreement on climate change to limit warming to below 1.5°C.

Keep reading... Show less

France Awards U.S. Climate Scientists Multi-Year Grants to #MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain

French President Emmanuel Macron will announce the first recipients of the "Make Our Planet Great Again" grants Monday evening.

The winners will receive all-expenses-paid grants to relocate to France and to conduct their climate research through the remainder of President Donald Trump's current term.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
GMO

Monsanto Giving Cash to Farmers Who Use Controversial Pesticide

Looks like Monsanto really wants farmers to use XtendiMax. The agribusiness giant is offering a cash incentive to farmers to apply a controversial pesticide linked to 3.1 million acres of crop damage in nearly two dozen heartland states, according to Reuters.

The cash-back offer comes as several states are considering restrictions on the use of the drift-prone and highly volatile chemical. DuPont Co. and BASF SE also sell dicamba-based formulations.

Keep reading... Show less
Scene from Ed R. Levin County Park in Milpitas, California. Don DeBold / Flickr

Why California Droughts Could Increase Due to Arctic Sea Ice Loss

Receding ice cover in the Arctic ocean could produce more droughts in California, according to a new study.

Published last week in Nature Communications, the study found that sea ice loss in the Arctic—of the proportion expected in coming years—could set off an atmospheric effect that will steer precipitation away from California. Notably, the study linked Arctic sea ice loss with the development of an atmospheric ridging system that also played a central role in the state's 2012-2016 drought.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!