5 Energy Stats That Will Blow You Away RSS Feed

5 Energy Stats That Will Blow You Away

Energy is the lifeblood of modern society. Without it we couldn’t power our vehicles or charge our gadgets, keep our medical devices running or our food from spoiling. There’s a reason energy, or a lack thereof, is one of the most terrifying parts of post-apocalyptic zombie films.

While we’ve benefited mightily from industrializing our economy and building a patchwork system of transmission lines we call the national grid, today we know we need to diversify away from our overreliance on fossil fuels and toward cleaner energy sources. We’re making tremendous progress, but not everything is as it seems. These five energy stats will blow you away while pretty clearly making that point.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Wind power supplies 5.6% of American electricity
Last year wind power generated an estimated 226 billion kWh of electricity in the United States. That represents growth of 3,670% since 2000, when the top non-hydro renewable energy source sent just 6 billion kWh of electricity to the grid. That’s remarkable progress in a period of less than two decades. How’d it happen?

US Electricity Net Generation From Wind in the Electric Power Sector data by YCharts.

Government subsidies helped to smooth out investments from utilities and power generators, which have invested $143 billion into wind power in the last decade alone. The United States has grown installed wind generating capacity from 11.4 gigawatts (GW) to 82 GW in that time — but it’s just getting started.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects installed wind capacity will rise to 102 GW by the end of 2018. That means wind power could provide more than 7% of all American electricity by the end of the decade.

NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE) has been a huge driver of this overnight transition. In fact, it’s the top green utility in the country and fourth-largest in the world. Today, the company’s portfolio boasts 13.8 GW of wind power. It plans to invest another $3.4 billion in wind power through the end of 2019 — its largest commitment to any energy source.

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Illinois almost cut clean energy production by 70%
Last year Illinois almost allowed Exelon (NYSE: EXC) to close two nuclear power facilities that generated 12.2% of the state’s total electricity — and nearly 70% of the state’s total clean energy generation. It was a remarkable showdown with huge consequences, but the power generator prevailed in the end.

How did we even arrive at that point? Exelon contested that the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard was misguided, as it only provided subsidies and incentives for, well, renewable energy sources. If the goal is to provide cleaner air and reduce carbon emissions, then states should prioritize clean energy, not just renewable energy, the company argued. You may disagree, but Illinois should have understood that better than any state in the country: it generates 48% of its electricity from nuclear energy.

After Exelon threatened to shut two nuclear facilities in the state, politicians agreed at the last minute to provide Zero Emission Credits of $0.0165 per kWh of generation. It will be enough to keep the facilities online for another 10 years at least — and may provide a blueprint for other states to follow. Indeed, Exelon is trying a similar tactic in Pennsylvania regarding its infamous Three Mile Island nuclear power plant, which it “plans to close.”

Image source: Getty Images.

3. Coal is making a comeback in 2017
Remember how coal was getting its breakfast, lunch, and dinner eaten by natural gas? The numbers proved that out: In 2016, natural gas stole the top spot by generating 33.8% of the nation’s power, while coal provided just 30.4%.

But it’s 2017, and coal is once again the top electricity source in America. Through the first five months of the year coal has generated 5% more electricity than natural gas. What’s going on?

This was actually expected. Increasing natural gas prices this year have forced generators in certain regions to idle natural gas plants and switch back to coal, but only briefly. At the end of the day, coal power is going the way of the dodo. The energy source boasts some of the dirtiest and (most importantly) oldest power generation stations in the country, which means they’ll continue to be retired at a fast pace. Meanwhile, a flood of super-efficient natural gas plants are coming online in the next two years, which will put the final few nails in coal’s coffin and ake a repeat of this situation unlikely in the future.

Read full article at Madison.com