Renewables rise as coal, natural gas generation declines

- The latest statistics from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that despite a decline in U.S.

net generation last year, renewable energy resources saw significant increases.

Given the economic downturn, it is not surprising to see that U.S. net generation dropped by 0.9% from December 2007 to December 2008, the fifth-consecutive month that net generation was down compared to the same calendar month in 2007. Year-to-date, net generation was down 1%, according to the March 2009 Electric Power Monthly report.

What is startling to see is the decline in coal-fired and natural gas generation and the dramatic increase in renewable generation. EIA's March Electric Power Monthly report shows coal-fired generation fell 3% from December 2007 to December 2008 and year-to-date declined 1.1%. Natural gas dropped by 4.4% from December 2007 to December 2008 and year-to-date declined 2.2%.

Nuclear generation was essentially flat, growing 0.3% year-to-date. Renewables, however, saw significant increases, particularly in hydroelectric and wind resources.

Generation from conventional hydroelectric plants grew 12.1% from December 2007 to December 2008 and 0.9% year-to-date, thanks in part to higher precipitation in December across much of the continental United States, according to NOAA. Net generation from wind sources increased 67.2% from December 2007 to December 2008 and a jump in wind generation in December helped drive the year-to-date generation total up 51%.

According to EIA data on renewables, last year wind generated 52,017,000 MWh, solar thermal and photovoltaic power systems generated 833,000 MWh, wood and wood-derived fuels produced 38,789,000 MWh, geothermal produced 15,002,000 MWh and other biomass generated 17,086,000 MWh.

Year-to-date, coal-fired plants contributed 48.5% to electric power, nuclear plants contributed 19.7%, while 21.3% was generated at natural gas-fired plants. Conventional hydroelectric power provided 6.1% of the total electric power, while other renewables and other miscellaneous energy sources generated 3.3% and petroleum-fired plants generated 1.1%.



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