Several reports recently released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) confirm that the mix of renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) significantly out-performed and expanded their lead over nuclear power in 2020.
Renewables accounted for a substantially greater share of the nation’s installed utility-scale generating capacity than did nuclear power. Renewables provided more actual electrical generation than did nuclear power. And renewables accounted for a far larger percentage of total U.S. energy production and consumption than did nuclear power.
Electrical generating capacity of renewable energy is now nearly three times that of nuclear power
According to the FERC’s final monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report for 2020 (with data through December 31, 2020), renewable sources collectively accounted for 22,451 MW — or more than three-quarters (78.09%) — of the 28,751-MW of new utility-scale capacity added in 2020. There were no new capacity additions by nuclear power during the year.
Due to such growth, renewable energy sources are accounting for an ever-greater share of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity with each passing year and continue to expand their lead over nuclear power.
For example, in 2010, FERC reported that installed renewable energy generating capacity was 13.71% of the nation’s total. Five years later, it had increased to 17.83%. At the end of 2020, renewable energy sources had soared to 24.06% of the nation’ total available installed generating capacity.
By comparison, ten years ago, nuclear power’s share of total installed operating generation capacity was 9.56%. By 2015, it had declined to 9.16%. In 2020, it fell to 8.57% and remains on a downward trajectory.
In fact, FERC forecasts that the mix of all renewables will add more than 59,308 MW of net new generating capacity to the nation’s total by December 2023 while nuclear power’s operating capacity will actually drop by 4,330 MW, or more than 4% of its current total.
Renewables produced more electricity than nuclear power in 2020
The calendar year 2020 issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” (with data through December 31, 2020) reveals that renewable energy sources — including distributed solar (e.g., rooftop systems) — collectively provided 20.59% of the country’s total electrical output last year — up from 18.34% a year earlier.
Renewables’ share of U.S. electrical generation in 2020 eclipsed that of nuclear power (19.50%); that is, renewable energy sources produced 5.61% more electricity than did nuclear power whose output actually fell 2.41% during the same twelve-month period.
For perspective, renewable sources accounted for just 10.36% of U.S. electrical generation at the end of 2010 and 13.65% at the end of 2015. Thus, renewables have doubled their share of the nation’s electrical generation over the past decade. By comparison, nuclear power’s share has remained largely unchanged — 19.6% in 2010 and 19.4% in 2015.
Further, last year, utility-scale renewables provided more electricity than nuclear power in 29 states plus Washington D.C. Of those, 21 states as well as Washington D.C. produced zero electricity using nuclear power during the year.  AK, CA, CO, DC, DE, IA, ID, IN, HI, KS, KY, MA, ME, MN, MT, ND, NE, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WY AK, CO, DC, DE, ID, HI, IN, KY, MA, ME, MT, ND, NM, NV, OK, OR, RI, SD, UT, VT, WV, WY
Renewables provided a far greater share of U.S. energy production and use in 2020 than did nuclear power
According to the latest issue of EIA’s “Monthly Energy Review” (with data through December 31, 2020), renewable energy sources (i.e., biofuels, biomass, hydropower, geothermal, solar, wind) provided 12.29% of domestic energy production and 12.47% of domestic energy consumption during 2020.
Meanwhile, nuclear power accounted for 8.61% of U.S. energy production and 8.87% of domestic energy consumption.
In total, in 2020, renewable sources produced 42.74% more energy than did nuclear power. And the difference appears to be widening. Renewable sources produced 2.14% more energy in 2020 than they did in 2019 while nuclear power’s output dropped by 2.41% year-over-year.
For perspective, in 2010, renewables were 11.10% of domestic production and 8.48% of consumption. Five years later, renewable sources accounted for 11.02% of production and 9.98% of consumption.
By comparison, nuclear power was 11.26% of production and 8.65% of energy consumption in 2010. By 2015, it had dropped to 9.45% of production and 8.56% of consumption. In fact, 2010 was the last year in which nuclear power provided more energy than did renewable energy sources.
“While precise, near-term forecasts for renewables versus nuclear power are subject to a number of variables, it is safe to conclude that renewable energy sources have overtaken nuclear, and that the margin will continue to widen in the years to come,” observed Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Moreover, that conclusion is based on the federal government’s own figures which have historically proven conservative and underestimated growth by renewables.”
FERC’s 7-page “Energy Infrastructure Update for December 2020” was released on February 8, 2021. It can be found at https://www.ferc.gov; open the link “Industries and Data,” then follow to “FERC Staff Reports and Papers,” and then to “Energy Infrastructure.” For the information cited in this update, see the tables entitled “New Generation In-Service (New Build and Expansion),” “Total Available Installed Generating Capacity,” and “Generation Capacity Additions and Retirements.”
The U.S. Energy Information Administration issued its “Electric Power Monthly” report for calendar year 2020 on February 24, 2021. It may be found at: https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly (see February 2021 under “Previous Issues”)
The electricity data cited in this update can be found at, or extrapolated from, Tables ES1.A and ES1.B.
State-by-state data for individual energy sources can be found in Tables 1.4A – 1.18B.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration issued its “Monthly Energy Review” report with calendar year 2020 data on March 25, 2021. It may be found at: https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly. See Table 1.1 for the data cited in this update.
News item from the Sun Day Campaign