BrightSource Energy Coalinga EORBy Ken Bossong, Sun Day Campaign (10/3/11)

According to the most recent issue of the “Monthly Energy Review” by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), with data through June 30, 2011, renewable energy has passed another milestone as domestic production is now significantly greater than that of nuclear power and continues to close in on oil.

During the first half of 2011, renewable energy sources (biomass & biofuels, geothermal, solar, water, wind) provided 4.687 quadrillion Btus of energy or 12.25% of U.S. energy production. By comparison, renewables accounted for 11.05% of domestic production during the first half of 2010 and 10.50% during the first half of 2009. (On the consumption side, which includes oil and other energy imports, renewable sources accounted for 9.45% of total U.S. energy use.)

More significantly, energy production from renewable energy sources in 2011 was 17.91% more than that from nuclear power, which provided 3.975 quadrillion Btus and has been declining in recent years. Energy from renewable sources is now equal to 79.83% of that from domestic crude oil production, with the gap closing rapidly.

Looking at all energy sectors (e.g., electricity, transportation, thermal), production of renewable energy, including hydropower, has increased by 15.02% compared to the first half of 2010, and by 22.79% when compared to the first half of 2009. Among the renewable energy sources, biomass and biofuels accounted for 46.04% in 2011 (54% from biomass and 46% from biofuels), followed by hydropower (37.00%), wind (13.40%), geothermal (2.33%), and solar (1.22%).

Looking at just the electricity sector, according to the latest issue of EIA’s “Electric Power Monthly,” with data through June 30, 2011, for the first half of 2011, renewable energy sources (biomass, geothermal, solar, water, wind) accounted for 13.97% of net U.S. electrical generation – up 26.14% from the same period in 2010. Hydropower accounted for 8.94% of U.S. electrical generation, followed by wind at 3.24%, biomass at 1.33%, geothermal at 0.41%, and solar at 0.04%. Thus, non-hydro renewables accounted for 5.02% of net U.S. electrical generation. Comparing the first six months of 2011 to the first six months of 2010, solar-generated electricity expanded by 43.6%, wind by 35.1%, hydropower by 30.3%, and geothermal by 4.9%; only biomass dropped – by 4.4%.

By comparison, nuclear power’s contribution to net U.S. electrical generation totaled 19.12% representing a decline of 3.8% compared to the first half of 2010 and a drop of over 5% compared to the first half of 2009. Similarly, coal-generated electricity also dipped by 4.8% from its mid-year 2010 level while natural gas increased by 2.4%.


The U.S. Energy Information Administration released its most recent “Monthly Energy Review” on September 28, 2011.  It can be found at:  The relevant charts from which the data above are extrapolated are Tables 1.1, 1.2, and 10.1.  EIA released its most recent “Electric Power Monthly” on September 15, 2011; see: The relevant charts are Tables 1.1, ES1.B, and 1.1.A.