North American Leaders Set Goal for 50% Clean Energy by 2025

North American heads of state met yesterday in Ottawa to commit to generating half of the continent’s electricity from “clean energy” sources by 2025.   These clean energy sources include renewable energy, nuclear generation, fossil fuel plants that use carbon capture and storage, and energy efficiency.  Currently, 37% of North American electricity is provided by clean energy sources.  In the U.S. which represents about 75% of total North American generation, only about 33% electricity generation is from renewable and nuclear facilities as shown in the figure below.  In stark contrast, about 80% of Canada’s electricity is provided by clean energy sources, with hydro representing about ¾ of this.

US Generation by Type 2015

Particularly troubling for the U.S. are the pending retirements of the following nuclear units: Clinton, Diablo Canyon, Fort Calhoun, Fitzpatrick, Oyster Creek, Pilgrim and Quad Cities. The table below indicates the location, rated capacity and 2015 annual electricity output of these units.  In 2015 they generated almost 64 TWh, representing 1.6 percent of total U.S. utility generation.  Clearly their loss will have a significant impact on the investment required for the U.S to achieve this 50% clean energy goal. Equally important are the implications of the loss of this non-carbon emitting generation on the cost of achieving the emission reductions required by the Clean Power Plan.  With the stay of the Clean Power Plan, a “policy bridge” to support this generation would appear to be appropriate.

U.S. Nuclear Generating Units Scheduled for Retirement

USNuclearRetirementSchedule20160630

According to the recently released 2016 Annual Energy Outlook about 43% of U.S. electric generation will be produced by such clean energy sources by 2025, with a major contributor to this growth the additional renewable energy spawned by the extension of the production tax credits.  This gap suggests that additional policy support will be required to achieve the 50% goal.  Additional clean energy from Canada, such as several New England states are considering, could assist the US in achieving its target.