Renewable Energy Almost Equals Nuclear Energy in USA

According to the most recent issue of the “Monthly Energy Review” by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), “nuclear electric power accounted for 11% of primary energy production and renewable energy accounted for 11% of primary energy production” during the first nine months of 2010 (the most recent period for which data have been released).

More specifically, renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass/biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, and wind) accounted for 10.9% of domestic energy production and increased by 5.7% compared to the same period in 2009. Meanwhile, nuclear power accounted for 11.4% of domestic energy production but provided 0.5% less energy than a year earlier.

And according to EIA’s latest “Electric Power Monthly,” renewable energy sources accounted for 10.18% of U.S. electrical generation during the first three-quarters of 2010. Compared to the same period in 2009, renewables – including hydropower – grew by 2.2%. While conventional hydropower dropped by 5.2%, non-hydro renewable used in electrical generation expanded by 16.8% with geothermal growing by 4.9%, biomass by 5.5%, wind by 27.3%, and solar by 47.1%. Non-hydro renewables accounted for 3.9% of total electrical generation from January 1 – September 30, 2010 — up from 3.5% the year before.

Preliminary data also show that fossil fuels accounted for 78% of primary energy production. Overall, U.S. primary energy production rose by 2% compared with the first nine months of 2009. The report also showed that consumption of oil, including imported oil, has declined due to more fuel-efficient vehicles and because vehicle miles traveled peaked in the U.S. in 2005.

“Members of the incoming Congress are proposing to slash cost-effective funding for rapidly expanding renewable energy technologies while foolishly plowing ever-more federal dollars into the nuclear power black hole,” said Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. The Southern Company was recently provided with $8.4 billion in federal loan guarantees to build two new nuclear reactors. The guarantees could cost taxpayers $8.4 billion should the project later be cancelled due to cost overruns. Congress is considering over $40 billion for new nuclear reactors.

4 replies
  1. harrywr2
    harrywr2 says:

    If we further break down renewable, wood burning, biomass and geothermal account for 43% of renewables and haven't changed appreciably since 1996.

    Total solar pv/thermal for 12 months rolling is the equivalent of 1 nuclear power plant running for 52 days.

    Wind does a bit better with the equivalent of ten 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plants

    Of course we have 40,000+ megawatts of windmills installed. Once one adds in the cost of backup generation they aren't all that cheap.

    • Greg R.
      Greg R. says:

      I was wondering the same thing myself, Jeff. Nuclear has consistently generated about 20% of the total electricity consumption in the United States for as long as I can remember. This may seem counterintuitive given that we haven't built any new plants in 30 years while total consuption continuously rises. The reason nuclear's percentage has nonetheless remained relatively constant owes to incremental nuclear plant up-rates and gradual improvements in outage management and equipment reliability that collectively permit nuclear plants to spend more time online generating power and less time down for repairs and refueling.

  2. John Addison
    John Addison says:

    The comments from Harry and Jeff are correct. The article is also correct in its summary of EIA Data at
    The difference is electricity versus total primary energy including transportation, heat, and industrial uses. Nuclear is greater than wind and solar and also has baseload advantages. Renewables in the EIA Data includes hydro, bioenergy, and biofuel.

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