Michael H. Fox
Why We Need Nuclear Power
The Environmental Case
Read Chapter 4 for a more detailed discussion.
Forty percent of all energy used in the US is devoted to producing
electricity. In spite of energy conservation, the EIA expects the use of
electricity to increase by 30% in 2040, while total energy consumption is
expected to increase by 12%.
As of the end of 2013, renewable energy contributed 12.6% of electricity in
the US, coming from hydropower (52.3%), wind (33.0%), biomass (9.6%),
geothermal (3.2%) and solar (1.8%). The actual proportion of electricity
was 4.2% from wind and 0.22% from solar . Both of these sources are
growing rapidly, but they start from a very small base. They have a long
way to go to make up a significant part of the total energy portfolio for the
US. By 2040 the EIA projects that renewable energy will make up just
16% of electricity production.
The fastest growing types of renewable energy are solar and wind. There
are several factors that limit their ability to become a large fraction of
electricity generation. These are:
- The best resources don't match where the most people live
- Long transmission lines are needed
- They have a large footprint because the energy density is low
- They are intermittent so have to be backed up with other sources
- They don't match the electricity demand curve well
- They are expensive and require large subsidies to be feasible
More details on these factors are given on the individual pages for solar
power and wind power.