Nuclear Takes the Back Seat to Renewables in US Energy Production

A recent report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) found renewable energy production in the United States has increased by a little over 15 percent since the first quarter of 2010, and has increased by more than 25 percent when compared to the first quarter of 2009, which puts it ahead of nuclear energy production and closer to surpassing domestic oil production.

The EIA Monthly Energy Review reported in the first three months of 2011, the country’s biomass/biofuel, hydropower, wind, geothermal, and solar energy generation plants produced a combined nearly 12 percent of U.S. energy production, while nuclear produced about 2 percent. The Monthly Energy Review reported that “energy produced from renewables is 77.15 percent of that from domestic crude oil production.” Nuclear power experienced a minimal increase, but has mainly stayed steady.

In California, just a few months ago, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a directive requiring that 33% of the state’s electricity must come from renewable energy sources by 2020. While this law, known as the renewable portfolio standard (or RPS), is the most ambitious in the country, many are left with concerns of how and where the renewable energy is to be produced (centralized, industrial-scale facilities or localized distributed generation) and the feeling that the percentage should be higher. Governor Brown has stated, “While reaching a 33 percent renewable portfolio standard will be an important milestone, it is really just a starting point – a floor, not a ceiling… Our state has enormous renewable resource potential.” Governor Brown’s statement reinforces the trend the EIA Monthly Energy Reviews are tracking on the national level – renewable energy continues to be the most equitable energy source of the future.