Renewable Energy Passed Up Nuclear in 2010
Zachary Shahan April 17, 2011
tryin’ to improve our world, one letter at a time
It seems that total cumulative installed power capacity from renewable sources passed up nuclear for the first time in 2010, according to the draft version of a new report coming out soon by the Worldwatch Institute, The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2010-2011.
“In 2010, for the first time, worldwide cumulated installed capacity of wind turbines, biomass and waste-to-energy plants, and solar power reached 381 gigawatts, outpacing the installed nuclear capacity of 375 gigawatts,” the draft report says.
Nuclear Renaissance is Hype — Nuclear Declining
While there has been much hype of a nuclear renaissance and I have seen a number of nuclear proponents even try to turn the scenario in Japan into an argument for nuclear, the bottom line is that nuclear has been sliding for awhile. According to the report:
developments even prior to March 11, when the Fukushima crisis began, illustrate that the international nuclear industry has been unable to stop the slow decline of nuclear energy. Not enough new units are coming online, and the world’s reactor fleet is aging quickly. Moreover, it is now evident that nuclear power development cannot keep up with the pace of its renewable energy competitors.
From everything I’ve read, that last sentence nails it, despite the fact that the nuclear industry has received several times more subsidies historically than renewable resources. Renewable energy just makes more sense (I was inclined to write “cents” instead, but thought that might be a little too cheesy).
Nuclear power has been declining for a number of obvious reasons. It is too risky, costs too much, and as such, can’t garner necessary private capital. Even with tremendously unbalanced government support (compared to renewable energy), it is declining while renewable energy is rising.
Nuclear vs Renewable Energy
With nuclear declining and renewable popping onto the scene and growing fast, renewables had been approaching this historic crossover for years:
Annual renewables capacity additions have been outpacing nuclear start-ups for 15 years. In the United States, the share of renewables in new capacity additions skyrocketed from 2 percent in 2004 to 55 percent in 2009, with no new nuclear coming on line. In 2010, for the first time, worldwide cumulated installed capacity of wind turbines (193 gigawatts*), biomass and waste-to-energy plants (65 GW), and solar power (43 GW) reached 381 GW, outpacing the installed nuclear capacity of 375 GW prior to the Fukushima disaster. Total investment in renewable energy technologies has been estimated at $243 billion in 2010.
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