August 28, 2017; Solar Industry
According to the most recent issue of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly, data through June 30, 2017 shows that the share of electrical generation coming from renewables, which include biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, and wind, is statistically tied with nuclear. The nonprofit research group SUN DAY Campaign reports that each delivers 20 percent of the nation’s energy needs.
The EIA, the primary federal government authority on energy statistics and analysis, stated that, while renewables are in a close contest with nuclear, “nuclear will generate more electricity than renewables for all of 2017.”
In total, according to EIA’s data for the six months, 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. However, renewables may actually hold a small lead, says SUN DAY: Though EIA estimates the contribution from distributed PV solar, it does not include electrical generation by distributed wind, micro-hydro or small-scale biomass, the group points out.
SUN DAY, however, says there is strong growth in almost all sources for renewable energy, and that the EIA data demonstrates a trend towards an expanding market for renewables and a stagnant (and perhaps declining) market for nuclear.
The SUN DAY Campaign is a 25-year-old membership organization focused on “research and educational organization supporting the aggressive development of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.”
Comparing the first six months of 2017 with the same period in 2016, utility-scale plus small-scale solar grew by 45.1 percent, hydropower by 16.1 percent, wind by 15.6 percent and geothermal by 3.2 percent. Biomass (including wood and wood-derived fuels) remained essentially unchanged, slipping by 0.8%. Importantly, electrical generation by solar alone is now greater than that provided individually by biomass, geothermal and oil (e.g., petroleum liquids plus petroleum coke), according to the group.
SUN DAY reports that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently stated that installed generating capacity is 19.70 percent for renewables and less than half that, 8.98 percent, for nuclear. One sign that renewables are overtaking nuclear is the cancellation of four reactors in South Carolina. Further, there is a possibility of cancellation of reactors in Georgia, and no other new nuclear sites are planned. This means that the closure of nuclear plants would outpace any additions.
Ken Bossong, the executive director of SUN DAY Campaign, observes that “Everyone loves a horse race. 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,” adds 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.”