Renewable Electricity Generation Surpasses Nuclear For First Time Since 1984

U.S. monthly electricity generation from utility-scale renewable sources exceeded nuclear generation for the first time since July 1984, in March, and again in April, the EIA reports.


This outcome reflects both seasonal and trend growth in renewable generation, as well as maintenance and refueling schedules for nuclear plants, which tend to undergo maintenance during spring and fall months, when overall electricity demand is lower than in summer or winter.

Record generation from both wind and solar as well as recent increases in hydroelectric power as a result of high precipitation across much of the West over the past winter contributed to the overall rise in renewable electricity generation this spring, while nuclear generation in April was at its lowest monthly level since April 2014. However, EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) projects that monthly nuclear electricity generation will surpass renewables again during the summer months of 2017 and that nuclear will generate more electricity than renewables for all of 2017.


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review and Electric Power Monthly

Conventional hydroelectric generation, which remains the largest source of renewable electricity in most months, totaled 30 billion kilowatthours in March, the highest level in nearly six years. Largely because of record precipitation and snowpack in California, EIA’s latest STEO projects an increase of 14% for hydroelectric power in 2017 compared with 2016.

Electricity generation from wind and solar has increased as more generating capacity has been installed. More than 60% of all utility-scale electricity generating capacity that came online in 2016 was from wind and solar technologies. These sources contributed to record high levels of generation from both fuels: between March 2016 and March 2017, wind generation increased by 16%, and solar generation increased by 65%. In April, solar generation continued to increase, while wind generation fell slightly. EIA’s STEO projects an increase of 8% and 40% in wind and solar utility-scale generation, respectively, in 2017.

As renewable generation has increased, net generation from nuclear power has remained relatively flat since the late 1990s. Retirements of a number of nuclear plants have resulted in a slightly lower level of overall nuclear generation capacity, and in turn, a lower level of generation.

Unlike generation levels from wind and solar, which follow seasonal patterns that reflect the fluctuations in their resources, monthly fluctuations in nuclear generation largely reflect maintenance schedules. Based on data reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and compiled in EIA’s daily Status of U.S. Nuclear Outages report, an average of 14 gigawatts and 21 gigawatts of nuclear capacity were offline during March and April, respectively, representing about 14% and 21% of total nuclear capacity in the United States.

For a complete list of nuclear plant additions, restarts, and retirements over the past 10 years, see EIA’s Monthly Energy Review.


shitshitshit Thu, 12/28/2017 - 15:51 Permalink

The big problem being that renewable energy (wind+solar farms) are neither predictable nor reliable. 

The other fine print us that it generally costs more  energy and pollution to build these renewable energy systems than whatever they are going to produce during their entire lifetime. 

The final nail in the coffin is that hydro electric generation dams are being resupplied in water through nuclear energy night schedules. So in essence they act as storage batteries for the nuclear industry, which is pretty elegant and efficient given it then becomes renewable energy that is both predictable and reliable. 

jeff montanye Praetorian Guard Thu, 12/28/2017 - 17:40 Permalink

what do you guess la fitness could generate if all that stuff was hooked up at the factory?

i guess that dam could have the water pumped up during the daylight hours by the solar plant about as well. i realize a visceral preference for nuclear and fossil fuel energy is a point of faith hereabouts but as was noted the experience of japan and pollution generally have soured me on it.

i wonder how much "off the grid" solar and wind power this graph misses. probably not much "off the grid" nuclear power outside of the big war boats.

In reply to by Praetorian Guard

oneno DownWithYogaPants Thu, 12/28/2017 - 22:01 Permalink

One 1000-ft WING Generator can replace two 500 MW turbines so that all power facilities can be replaced one-for-one. There is a stable westward flowing electron belt at the equator and two unstable eastward flowing proton belts at the two latitudes that can power these scalable distributed turbines without requiring any inert fuels (coal, nat-gas, oil, nuclear). The wheel work that drives these energy belts on the Earth is described in the weather book. All so-called alternative energy (solar, 3-blade turbine) is possible only with government subsidies at extreme tax-payer expense.

In reply to by DownWithYogaPants

ScratInTheHat troubadourcapital Thu, 12/28/2017 - 17:17 Permalink

Nuclear could be safe if they would develop the Molten-Salt Reactor (MSR)! They can’t melt down! They can run on Thorium a product that is now just a waste material contaminating mining areas. They can also consume 90% or more of the fuel and could be used to burn much of the nuclear waste we have lying around today. Renewable will always be the most expensive way the generate energy because you have to have a rampable complete generation system in order to have stable power. All you people that think renewables are the answer are dreaming!

In reply to by troubadourcapital

jeff montanye ScratInTheHat Thu, 12/28/2017 - 17:47 Permalink

that seems unlikely since the original source of the energy is free. batteries are where you find or make them; plenty of ideas to store the excess power for times of less power production. also a number of smaller units, some wind, some solar, some hydro, some biomass, etc. are more dependable than one giant power plant.

though the thorium idea is sounds worthwhile pursuing.…

In reply to by ScratInTheHat

squid troubadourcapital Thu, 12/28/2017 - 22:34 Permalink

Ooooooo.... Nuclear is dangerous.

So says the arts degree holder.


Tell me, my BA chum, how much non-renewable energy is required to keep the renewable energy systems working?


No rush on the answer. Will only need 4 more years to get your physics degree...assuming your arts ass doesn't flunk any of the math or required chemistry. Or, you could go to a poly tech, not much theory but at least you'll learn how to compute power and energy.


We'll wait for you to get up to speed to answer, no rush..


Hugs and kisses,


In reply to by troubadourcapital

Milton Keynes shitshitshit Thu, 12/28/2017 - 16:47 Permalink

Renewable is fairly predictable, it's not dispatchable....Unless you add some battery.

Add one hours worth of battery and it's utterly dispatchable.


Grid is sold in the MW-Hour.  The trick for any renewable source is to either sell only what you can reliably

predict in the next hour, or have a dispatchable source behind you (Diesel Generator, Peaker, Gravity storage, Battery, Pnuematic).

Battery sized to your average predicted dispatch need is becoming very affordable.

In reply to by shitshitshit

midlife shitshitshit Thu, 12/28/2017 - 19:11 Permalink

I like our Solar Panels I installed them myself there predictably reliable as long as the sun comes up no moving parts and if you live in the U.S.A. it qualifies for a 30% tax credit. While our Solar Panels will pay for themselves in under 10 years I understand it's extremely cost prohibitive to pay to have them installed.

We were quoted $25,000 for installation cost on a $5,000 system mostly because state law required electricians for the install. Fuck that I did it my damn self including hooking it up to the mains and I couldn't be happier is it up to NEC 2016 code? Probably not exactly but I don't live where there's all kinds of ordinances and inspections is it grounded and ran through PVC yes- only the power company came out to make sure the electric box and disconnect box were correct and could be locked. This isn't something anyone could do though and I had help with the electrical calculations to make sure I didn't supply too much power to the inverter.

In reply to by shitshitshit

youngman Thu, 12/28/2017 - 16:01 Permalink

At what cost.....that is the economic question....sure you can make energy from the sun....but if its 10 times more expensive...then its not a good business model..but that does not matter in politics

DarthVaderMentor Thu, 12/28/2017 - 16:53 Permalink

Fascinating report!

" recent increases in hydroelectric power as a result of high precipitation across much of the West over the past winter contributed to the overall rise in renewable electricity generation this spring"

It is ironical that "Climate Change" (aka "Global Warming") is actually helping renewables? This may actually be a well documented reason why we should not implement cap and trade.

My hats off to the renewables crowd. Even though as was aptly said by another poster that renewables is neither reliable or predictable, thanks to heavy federal subsidies it has actually be proven possible. Now with his success we need to take the next step: Remove the federal subsidies slowly and if the states want to, let the states take the lead on future subsidies for building new renewable energy facilities. The federal government needs now to get out of the renewables energy incentive business and use those savings to start paying off its debt.

The states can now pick up the financial slack with local renewables tax incentives and continue to incent renewable energy sources, just like we're doing with SALT.


just the tip falconflight Thu, 12/28/2017 - 17:23 Permalink

in 2006, the basic monthly service charge, just to be connected to electrical power, was $6 per month for PSO.  when AEP Electrical bought PSO, or, i should say PSO sold out to AEP, the "bmsc" started going up.  it is now $50 per month just to be connected to the crumbling infrastructure.

actually, they are just protecting their dividends for the investment bankers that own them.  it's a big club, and i ain't in it.

In reply to by falconflight

just the tip Thu, 12/28/2017 - 17:12 Permalink

what's the big deal about the source?  AEP principle ownership is The Vanguard Group, Blackrock, State Street Corporation.  think about that the next time one of these cocksuckers runs a promotion claiming where their loyalty lies.  with the dividends.


BlackRock, Inc. is an American global investment management corporation based in New York City.

State Street Corporation, known as State Street, is an American worldwide financial services company.

The Vanguard Group is an American registered investment advisor based in Malvern, Pennsylvania

css1971 Thu, 12/28/2017 - 17:30 Permalink

Nuclear is regulated to death. It's not going anywhere in it's current form. And for good reason... The current designs of reactors are fucking insane.

I don't remember what the exact reasoning behind high pressure water being used as the primary coolant was, but it's a dead end. Reactors based on this fail dangerous.

next generation though...

Cassandra.Hermes Thu, 12/28/2017 - 19:00 Permalink

Germany had negative price on the electricity on Christmas Eve, you were actually paid to consume.

If you don't believe me, check the prices on EPEX Spot, one of the largest energy exchange.

StreetObserver Thu, 12/28/2017 - 23:17 Permalink

Don't fall for the "Carbon Free Nuclear:" bullshit:

Since 2005, new U.S. reactors (if any) have been 100+% subsidized–yet they couldn’t raise a cent of private capital, because they have no business case. They cost 2-3 times as much as new windpower, and by the time you could build a reactor, it couldn’t even beat solar power. Competitive renewables, cogeneration, and efficient use can displace all U.S. coal power more than 23 times over–leaving ample room to replace nuclear power’s half-as-big-as-coal contribution too–but we need to do it just once.

(Read Lovins’ technical papers on the issue here.)


StreetObserver StreetObserver Thu, 12/28/2017 - 23:18 Permalink

Hey, what happened to the Edit button?

"Nuclear energy is not the “clean” energy its backers proclaim. For more than 50 years, nuclear energy has been quietly polluting our air, land, water and bodies—while also contributing to Global Warming through the CO2 emissions from its construction, mining, and manufacturing operations. Every aspect of the nuclear fuel cycle—mining, milling, shipping, processing, power generation, waste disposal and storage—releases greenhouse gases, radioactive particles and toxic materials that poison the air, water and land. Nuclear power plants routinely expel low-level radionuclides into the air in the course of daily operations. While exposure to high levels of radiation can kill within a matter of days or weeks, exposure to low levels on a prolonged basis can damage bones and tissue and result in genetic damage, crippling long-term injuries, disease and death."

In reply to by StreetObserver