Nuclear Energy Generation Surpassed by Renewable Energy in 2021

U.S. Energy Information Administration, (EIA) reports that the United States’ electric power sector generated 795 million MWh from renewable sources in 2021. This is more than nuclear generation, which accounted to 778 millions MWh. The U.S. electric power sector does not include electricity generators in the industrial, commercial or residential sectors, such as small-scale solar or wind or some combined-heat-and-power systems. Renewable generation is electricity that is generated from solar, wind, biomass, and other renewable sources.

Natural gas was still the main source of electricity in the United States. It accounted for 1,474 Million MWh in 2020. Despite the retirement of several U.S. coal power plants in 2021, the U.S.’s coal-fired electricity generation increased and was now the largest source of electricity over renewables or nuclear power. Although the total generation from the electric power sector saw a slight increase in 2021, it was still below its 2018 record.

The U.S. Electric Power Sector Renewable Generation grew by 12% in 2021 due to the addition of more solar generation and more wind turbines. Utilities-scale solar generation grew by 28% and wind generation grew by 12% in 2021. Due to dry conditions in western United States, hydroelectric generators fell to their lowest level since 2015. In 2021, biomass and geothermal electricity generation remained relatively stable.

Because of the uprates at existing facilities, nuclear-powered generation has remained fairly steady in the United States over the past decade. Only one reactor was retired in 2021: New York’s Indian Point Unit 3. Despite a slight increase of the U.S. nuclear fleet’s capacity factor in 2021, U.S. electricity generation dropped to its lowest level since 2012.

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