Renewables Provide More Electrical Generation than Nuclear Power

Several reports recently released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) confirm that the mix of renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) significantly out-performed and expanded their lead over nuclear power in 2020.

Renewables accounted for a substantially greater share of the nation’s installed utility-scale generating capacity than did nuclear power. Renewables provided more actual electrical generation than did nuclear power. And renewables accounted for a far larger percentage of total U.S. energy production and consumption than did nuclear power.

Electrical Generating Capacity of Renewable Energy Is Now Nearly Three Times That of Nuclear Power

According to the FERC’s final monthly “Energy Infrastructure Update” report for 2020 (with data through Dec. 31, 2020), renewable sources collectively accounted for 22,451 megawatts (MW)—or more than three-quarters (78.09 percent)—of the 28,751 MW of new utility-scale capacity added in 2020. There were no new capacity additions by nuclear power during the year.

Due to such growth, renewable energy sources are accounting for an ever-greater share of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity with each passing year and continue to expand their lead over nuclear power.

For example, in 2010, FERC reported that installed renewable energy generating capacity was 13.71% of the nation’s total. Five years later, it had increased to 17.83 percent. At the end of 2020, renewable energy sources had soared to 24.06 percent of the nation’s total available installed generating capacity.

By comparison, 10 years ago, nuclear power’s share of total installed operating generation capacity was 9.56 percent. By 2015, it had declined to 9.16 percent. In 2020, it fell to 8.57 percent and remains on a downward trajectory.

In fact, FERC forecasts that the mix of all renewables will add more than 59,308 MW of net new generating capacity to the nation’s total by December 2023 while nuclear power’s operating capacity will actually drop by 4,330 MW, or more than 4 percent of its current total.

Renewables Produced More Electricity Than Nuclear Power in 2020

The calendar year 2020 issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly” (with data through Dec. 31, 2020) reveals that renewable energy sources, including distributed solar (rooftop systems), collectively provided 20.59 percent of the country’s total electrical output last year—up from 18.34 percent a year earlier.

Renewables’ share of U.S. electrical generation in 2020 eclipsed that of nuclear power (19.50 percent); that is, renewable energy sources produced 5.61 percent more electricity than did nuclear power whose output actually fell 2.41 percent during the same 12-month period.

For perspective, renewable sources accounted for just 10.36 percent of U.S. electrical generation at the end of 2010 and 13.65 percent at the end of 2015. Thus, renewables have doubled their share of the nation’s electrical generation over the past decade. By comparison, nuclear power’s share has remained largely unchanged—19.6 percent in 2010 and 19.4 percent in 2015.

Further, last year, utility-scale renewables provided more electricity than nuclear power in 29 states plus Washington, D.C.[1] Of those, 21 states, as well as Washington, D.C., produced zero electricity using nuclear power during the year.[2]

[1] Alaska, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming

[2] Alaska, Colorado, District of Columbia, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming

Renewables Provided a Far Greater Share of U.S. Energy Production and Use in 2020 Than Did Nuclear Power

According to the latest issue of EIA’s “Monthly Energy Review” (with data through Dec. 31, 2020), renewable energy sources (biofuels, biomass, hydropower, geothermal, solar, wind) provided 12.29 percent of domestic energy production and 12.47 percent of domestic energy consumption during 2020.

Meanwhile, nuclear power accounted for 8.61 percent of U.S. energy production and 8.87 percent of domestic energy consumption.

In total, in 2020, renewable sources produced 42.74 percent more energy than did nuclear power. And the difference appears to be widening. Renewable sources produced 2.14 percent more energy in 2020 than they did in 2019 while nuclear power’s output dropped by 2.41 percent year-over-year.

For perspective, in 2010, renewables were 11.10 percent of domestic production and 8.48 percent of consumption. Five years later, renewable sources accounted for 11.02 percent of production and 9.98 percent of consumption.

By comparison, nuclear power was 11.26 percent of production and 8.65 percent of energy consumption in 2010. By 2015, it had dropped to 9.45 percent of production and 8.56 percent of consumption. In fact, 2010 was the last year in which nuclear power provided more energy than did renewable energy sources.

“While precise, near-term forecasts for renewables versus nuclear power are subject to a number of variables, it is safe to conclude that renewable energy sources have overtaken nuclear, and that the margin will continue to widen in the years to come,” observes Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign. “Moreover, that conclusion is based on the federal government’s own figures which have historically proven conservative and underestimated growth by renewables.”


FERC’s 7-page “Energy Infrastructure Update for December 2020” was released on Feb. 8, 2021. Open the link “Industries and Data,” then follow to “FERC Staff Reports and Papers,” and then to “Energy Infrastructure.” For the information cited in this update, see the tables titled “New Generation In-Service (New Build and Expansion),” “Total Available Installed Generating Capacity,” and “Generation Capacity Additions and Retirements.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration issued its “Electric Power Monthly” report for calendar year 2020 on Feb. 24, 2021 (see February 2021 under “Previous Issues”). The electricity data cited in this update can be found at or extrapolated from, Tables ES1.A and ES1.B. State-by-state data for individual energy sources can be found in Tables 1.4A – 1.18B.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration issued its “Monthly Energy Review” report with calendar year 2020 data on March 25, 2021. See Table 1.1 for the data cited in this update.

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