During the first third of 2017 renewable energy, including hydroelectric power as well as newer sources like solar and wind power, provided more of the US’s electricity (20.75 percent) supply than nuclear (20.20 percent). This is the first time since nuclear power plants began coming online in the US that renewable energy has outproduced nuclear.
That’s according to the Sun Day Campaign and Nuclear Information & Resource Service, which jointly issued a study based on the latest Energy Information's (EIA) Electric Power Monthly report. The study builds on news from the previous monthly report which found that solar and wind power produced more than 10 percent of the nation’s electricity, together surpassing hydropower. In April they produced 10.9 percent of nation’s electricity. In fact, solar, including residential solar, is now the third largest source of renewable energy in the US.
"Renewable energy is now surpassing nuclear power, a major milestone in the transformation of the U.S. energy sector," said Tim Judson, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. "This gulf will only widen over the next several years, with continued strong growth of renewables and the planned retirement of at least 7 percent of nuclear capacity by 2025. The possible completion of four new reactors will not be enough to reverse this trend, with total nuclear capacity falling by 2,806 MW (3 percent) through 2025."
By looking at the rate of contributions from renewables over the first four months of 2017, the organizations showed that this is a trend that’s beginning. Looking at the months individually, it’s even more clear that renewable energy is surpassing nuclear power. In March renewables provided 21.60 percent of the nation’s electric needs while nuclear provided 20.34 percent. In April renewables edged up even higher to 22.98 percent of the US energy supply while nuclear fell below 20 percent, to 19.19 percent of the US energy supply.
"In light of their growth rates in recent years, it was inevitable that renewable sources would eventually overtake nuclear power," observed Ken Bossong, executive director of the Sun Day Campaign. "The only real surprise is how soon that has happened—years before most analysts ever expected."
It helps that nuclear power plants are being retired even as more renewables than new nuclear projects come online. The study explained that the amount of renewable energy on the grid increased 12.1 percent during the first third of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. Meanwhile nuclear output dropped by 2.9 percent over the same time period.Tweet