U.S. renewable energy production hits an all-time high as nuclear power and fossil fuels decline

Renewable energy production during the first half of 2021 was 3.03% more than during the same period last year and 4.23% higher than in 2019

Domestic production of renewable energy (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) reached an all-time high in the first six months of this year, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of new data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The latest issue of EIA’s “Monthly Energy Review” report (with data through June 30, 2021) reveals that renewable sources accounted for 12.91% of the U.S. energy produced (and 12.71% of the energy consumed) for electricity, transportation, heating, and other uses.

Renewable energy production during the first half of 2021 was 6.160 quadrillion Btu (quads) – 3.03% more than during the same period last year and 4.23% higher than in 2019.

A sharp drop in hydropower (down 12.59%) and smaller declines in geothermal (down 2.83%), and biomass (down 0.53%) were more than offset by growth in solar energy (up 24.02%), wind (up 9.96%), and biofuels (up 6.46%).

Wind is now the largest single renewable energy source, accounting for 27.78% of total U.S. renewable energy output, followed by biomass (21.28%), hydropower (19.84%), biofuels (17.11%), solar (12.32%), and geothermal (1.67%).

By comparison, production by the nation’s nuclear power plants in 2021 dropped by 2.81% and 4.07% compared to 2020 and 2019 levels. As a consequence, energy provided by renewable sources thus far in 2021 exceeded nuclear generation by more than 50% (6.160 quads vs. 4.007 quads).

Meanwhile, the energy supplied by the mix of fossil fuels – 37.550 quads – also declined by 1.67% and 5.57% respectively but still accounted for 78.69% of total domestic production and 78.83% of U.S. energy consumption. Fossil fuel consumption during the first half of 2021 actually increased by 6.50% compared to the same period in 2020 (including a 28.73% increase in coal) and is the primary reason why carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy use also rose by 7.72%.

“The continued dominance of U.S. energy production and use by fossil fuels and the corresponding rise in CO2 emissions is alarming,” noted the SUN DAY Campaign’s executive director Ken Bossong. “Fortunately, renewable energy sources are slowly expanding their share of the energy market … but must accelerate far more rapidly if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change.”


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