Renewable Energy Usage Surpasses Nuclear

There are a ton of energy sources.  Some are renewable, some not so renewable.  On the renewable front, we have a bit of good news and a bit of not so good news.  Good news, for the first time, renewable energy usage surpasses nuclear energy.  The not so good news is that renewable electricity still has a way to go.


Let’s cover the good news first.  According to the the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), over the past eight years, renewable energy has slowly inched up to be nearly on par with nuclear energy consumption.

Usage of any type of energy will vary throughout the year due to seasonal factors.  For nuclear power generation, generation dips during spring and fall when nuclear power plants are halted to refuel.  One example with renewable energy is hydropower production.  Output for energy in this case is due to the annual cycle of water availability.

For a short time, late last year, renewable actually surpassed nuclear energy.  One must acknowledge the gradual rise of renewable combined with the seasonal fluctuations for each type of energy.

Energy is mesaured in BTU’s (British Thermal Units.)  At its highest, renewable energy came in near 800 trillion BTU’s.  Nuclear came in around 700 trillion BTU’s.   Although nuclear once again reigned the month after, this is a good sign and positive trend towards renewable energy.

All this sounds great, and it shows but it’s not the whole story.  We still have a ways to go for renewable electricity.  When the term energy is used, it does not necessarily mean electricity.  Energy encompasses what we usually think of as electric power, including hydro, wind, solar, and geothermal. But the term renewable also includes biofuels for transportation or biomass for space heating.  Energy is not just electricity.

Just taking renewable versus nuclear electricity tells a different story.  Yes, there is still a positive trend fro renewable electricity over the past 8 years.  But despite seasonal fluctuations, nuclear electricity has yet to be toppled by renewable electricity.

Electrical generation is measured in megawatts hours.  Even at its apex, renewable electricity came in at 50 million megawatt hours as compared to nuclear electricity lowest at about 55 million megawatt hours.

All in all, there is a positive trend towards renewable alongside nuclear energy and electricity.  For the near future, there will be seasonal battles as to which source trumps the other.  In the long term, let’s hope that our energy sources will come from more and more sustainable sources.

Image Credit: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review 

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.