POSTED BY: Bill Sweet / Mon, January 10, 2011
Energy Daily reports, based on information in a recent issue of the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Monthly Energy Review, that renewables matched nuclear reactors in U.S. primary energy production during the first nine months of last year, each contributing about 11 percent of the total. But if you think this means wind and solar are about to surpass nuclear in generating the country’s electricity, you have another think coming.
Remember that primary energy includes all energy, not just electric power, and that renewables as defined by EIA include hydropower and biomass, among other things. Specifically, biomass and biofuels accounted for 52 percent of the renewables share in primary energy production, and hydropower for 31.5 percent. Wind made up 11.5 of the renewables share, and solar less than 1.5 percent.
To be sure, solar energy was the fastest growing renewables component, increasing nearly 50 percent in the first three quarters of last year–but it’s still growing from a very small base, with uncertainty as to whether declining PV costs reflect real technological progress or just a shift in production to lower labor cost producers, notably in China.
With enormous potential still untapped–on the Great Lakes, among other places–wind seems destined to still dominate the U.S. renewables picture as far as electricity generation is concerned. Biofuels will remain a dubious contender in transportation: Energy inputs are large, and only modest decreases in greenhouse gases are achieved by comparison with gasoline, if any.