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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Renewables Top Nuclear in 27 States; Beat Coal in 17 States

AS TRUMP ADMINISTRATION CONSIDERS BAILOUTS OF

UNECONOMIC NUCLEAR AND COAL PLANTS…

EIA & FERC DATA SHOW RENEWABLES PROVIDING MORE ELECTRICITY

THAN NUCLEAR IN 27 U.S. STATES AND MORE THAN COAL IN A THIRD

Contact:         Ken Bossong, 301-270-6477 x.6

                        Tim Judson, 301-270-6477 x. 2

                         

Washington DC – Citing concerns about “national security” and “grid reliability,” the Trump Administration is weighing options for subsidizing and preventing the closure of environmentally polluting nuclear and coal plants made uneconomic by growing competition from renewable energy and natural gas. However, an analysis by the SUN DAY Campaign of recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) suggests that such concerns are not only unfounded but the trend is also potentially too late to reverse.

A review of 2017 state-by-state data presented in EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” report reveals that renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) are now providing more electricity than nuclear power in over half the states and more electricity than coal in a third [see Note A]. And the numbers continue to shift in favor of renewable sources, particularly as falling renewable energy prices and declining electricity demand make nuclear and coal ever-more uneconomic.

Nationwide, according to FERC’s latest “Energy Infrastructure Update,” renewable sources now account for 20.66% of the total available installed generating capacity. That is more than double the generating capacity of the nation’s nuclear power plants (9.12%) and is rapidly approaching the capacity of the nation’s coal plants (23.04%), which has dropped precipitously from 28.90% just five years ago. [1]

Moreover, FERC reports that proposed generation additions and retirements over the next three years could result in a net loss of an additional 15,898-MW of coal capacity and an increase of just 756-MW of nuclear capacity [see Note B] while utility-scale renewable sources are projected to mushroom with 156,981-MW of new capacity — primarily from wind (90,981-MW) and solar (52,216-MW). [2]  And the potential growth in solar does not include distributed, small-scale PV systems (e.g., rooftop solar) which could account for an additional 30% or more in solar capacity.

Renewable energy critics are quick to note that generating “capacity” is not the same as actual electrical “generation” because nuclear and coal typically have higher capacity factors than most renewable sources. True enough, but …

In terms of actual “generation,” renewables are now neck-and-neck with nuclear power … and may hold a small lead. The most recent EIA data show renewables (including distributed solar) providing 20.17% of the nation’s electrical generation during the first five months of 2018 compared to 20.14% from nuclear power. In fact, during the two most recent months reflected in EIA’s data (i.e., April & May 2018), renewables provided 10.6% more electricity than did nuclear power. [3]  (Renewables also similarly outpaced nuclear power twice last year — in March and April 2017.)

While coal still provides a greater share of U.S. electrical generation (26.6% for the first five months of 2018) than renewables, it is in a tailspin — dropping from 39.0% five years ago — while renewables have grown from a 14.3% share over the same period. [4]

These trends are likewise playing themselves out on the state level.

End-of-the-year data issued by EIA for calendar year 2017 reveal that nuclear power is now providing no electrical generation in 20 states plus Washington DC. Of these, four states have gone nuclear-free in recent years (CO, ME, OR, VT). Consequently, renewables are now providing more electricity than nuclear power in 27 states plus Washington DC; solar (utility-scale + distributed) alone is outpacing nuclear in 21 states while wind alone already exceeds nuclear in 22 states and is rapidly closing the gap in others. Even in six states still using nuclear power (CA, IA, KS, MN, TX, WA), renewable sources are providing more electricity. [5]

In addition, utility-scale renewable energy sources are out-producing electrical generation by coal in 17 states (plus Washington DC). Further, EIA reports no  electrical generation from coal in 2017 in two states (Rhode Island and Vermont) as well as Washington DC. [6]

“EIA and FERC data underscore that the renewable energy train has left the station,” noted Ken Bossong, Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Trying to reverse that situation with costly subsidies for environmentally-polluting nuclear power and coal defies common sense.”

“Nuclear and coal simply can’t compete with renewable energy,” said Tim Judson, Executive Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “Renewables will be generating more power than nuclear by 2020, and nuclear is poised for the same precipitous decline as coal in the coming years.”

KEY  FINDINGS:

Nuclear Power vs. Renewables: *

Utility-Scale + Distributed Solar-Generated Electricity Exceeds Nuclear Power in 21 states + DC:

AK, CA, CO, DE, HI, ID, IN, KY, ME, MT, ND, NM, NV, OK, OR, RI, SD, UT, VT, WV, WY, + DC

Utility-Scale Wind-Generated Electricity Exceeds Nuclear Power in 22 states:

AK, CO, DE, HI,  IA, ID, IN, KS, ME, MT, ND, NM, NV, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WV, WY (in addition, wind-generated electricity is close to that from nuclear power in Washington state; the gap is also small in Nebraska)

Utility-Scale Wind + Utility-Scale & Distributed Solar Combined Exceed Nuclear Power in 24 states + DC:

AK, CA, CO, DE, HI, IA, ID, IN, KS, KY, ME, MT, ND, NM, NV, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WV, WY, + DC

Utility-Scale Non-Hydro Renewables Combined Exceed Nuclear Power in 25 states + DC:

AK, CA, CO, DE, HI, IA, ID, IN, KS, KY, ME, MT, ND, NM, NV, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WY, + DC (in addition, the numbers are very close in Minnesota; non-hydro renewables should outpace nuclear power in 2018 if they did not already do so in 2017)

All Utility-Scale Renewables Combined Exceed Nuclear Power in 27 states + DC:

AK, CA, CO, DE, HI, IA, ID, IN, KS, KY, ME, MN, MT,  ND, NE, NM, NV, OK, OR, RI, SD, TX, UT, VT, WA, WV, WY, + DC

*EIA reports no electrical generation by nuclear power in 20 states (AK, CO, DE, HI, ID, IN, KY, ME, MT, ND, NM, NV, OK, OR, RI, SD, UT, VT, WV, WY) + DC.

Coal vs. Renewables: **

Utility-Scale + Distributed Solar-Generated Electricity Exceeds Coal in 9 states + DC:

CA, CT, ID, MA, NJ, NV, NY, RI, VT, + DC

Utility-Scale Wind-Generated Electricity Exceeds Coal in 11 states:

CA, ID, ME, NH, NY, OK, OR, RI, SD, VT, WA

Utility-Scale Non-Hydro Renewables Combined Exceed Coal-Generated Electricity in 15 states + DC:

CA, CT, ID, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OK, OR, RI, SD, VT, WA, + DC

Utility-Scale Wind + Utility-Scale & Distributed Solar Combined Exceed Coal-Generated Electricity in 16 states + DC:

CA, CT, HI, ID, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OK, OR, RI, SD, VT, WA, + DC

All Utility-Scale Renewables Combined Exceed Coal-Generated Electricity in 17 states + DC:

AK, CA, CT, HI, ID, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OK, OR, RI, SD, VT, WA, + DC (in addition, utility-scale renewables almost equaled the electrical output of coal in Kansas in 2017 and could exceed it in 2018; Iowa is also very close in coal vs. utility-scale renewable energy)

** EIA reports no electrical generation by coal in Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington DC.

# # # # # # # # #

Sources:

[1] https://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2018/may-energy-infrastructure.pdf  and  https://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2013/may-energy-infrastructure.pdf  [see table entitled “Total Available Installed Generating Capacity”]

[2] https://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2018/may-energy-infrastructure.pdf  pdf  [see table entitled “Proposed Generation Additions and Retirements by June 2021”]

[3] https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly (issues released June 25, 2018 and July 24, 2018) [see tables ES1.A. and ES1.B.]

[4] https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/archive/july2013.pdf [see table ES1.B.]

[5] https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/archive/february2018.pdf [see tables 1.4.B. (coal); 1.9.B. (nuclear energy); 1.10.B. (hydropower); 1.11.B. (non-hydro renewables); 1.14.B. (wind); 1.17.B. (solar PV – utility + small-scale); 1.18.B. (solar thermal)]

[6] Ibid.

Notes:

A.) EIA’s data for solar include utility-scale solar PV and solar thermal as well as small-scale, distributed solar (e.g., rooftop solar systems). However, EIA’s data for non-hydro renewables only reflect utility-scale facilities; they do not include state-by-state data for distributed photovoltaics. In its most recent “Electric Power Monthly” report (with data for the first five months of 2018), small-scale solar photovoltaic is estimated to account for ~31% of total electrical generation from solar sources.

Thus, the state-by-state comparisons of nuclear and coal to all renewables combined does not include distributed solar and therefore understates the actual amount of electricity being generated by renewable sources.

B.) FERC’s data for capacity additions and retirements is subject to numerous variables such as the Trump Administration’s possible proposals to bailout uneconomic nuclear and coal plants. In the case of net nuclear additions, for example, FERC’s numbers may prove unduly optimistic. Currently, four reactors with 3175 MW of capacity are scheduled to retire in 2018-2020. The only new nuclear reactors under construction in the U.S., Vogtle 3 and 4 (2234-MW), are officially past the 2020 timeframe now (2021-22), but even if FERC is counting them, it should be a 941-MW net loss of nuclear capacity over the three-year timeframe (2018-2020), not a 756-MW increase. If one extends that out to three years from present, the net loss is greater: 7 reactors closed with 6038-MW, and 3804-MW net reduction.

By the time Vogtle 3 and 4 are scheduled to come online, there are a total of 9 scheduled retirements with 8080-MW of capacity, for a net reduction of 5846-MW of nuclear generation. During that timeframe, two more states will go nuclear-free (MA and OH), one state will reduce nuclear generation by nearly 40% (NY), and another by nearly 30% (PA).

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