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In 2021, U.S. Renewable Energy Hit an All-Time High & Produced More Energy Than Either Coal or Nuclear Power.

Ken Bossong's picture
Executive Director, SUN DAY Campaign

Executive Director of the SUN DAY Campaign since 1992

  • Member since 2003
  • 47 items added with 18,908 views
  • Mar 31, 2022

Domestic production and consumption of renewable energy (i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) reached an all-time high in 2021, according to a SUN DAY Campaign analysis of new data released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

The latest issue of EIA's "Monthly Energy Review" report (with data through December 31, 2021) reveals that renewable sources accounted for more than one-eighth (12.61%) of the U.S. energy produced and 12.49% of the energy consumed for electricity, transportation, heating, and other uses. Renewable energy production during 2021 was 12.317 quadrillion Btu (quads) - 5.39% more than in 2020 and 5.89% more than in 2019.

A sharp drop in hydropower (down 8.79%) was more than offset by growth in all non-hydro renewables: solar energy (up 23.84%), wind (up 12.38%), biofuels (up 7.52%), geothermal (up 1.48%), and biomass (up 1.00%).

Wind is now the largest single renewable energy source, accounting for 27.05% of total U.S. renewable energy output, followed by biomass (21.41%), biofuels (19.15%), hydropower (18.54%), solar (12.19%), and geothermal (1.67%).

By comparison, production by the nation’s nuclear power plants in 2021 dropped by 1.48% and 3.82% compared to 2020 and 2019 levels. As a consequence, energy provided by renewable sources in 2021 exceeded nuclear generation by more than 50% (12.317 quads vs. 8.129 quads).

Renewables energy production last year also surpassed that of coal by 6.54% (12.317 quads vs. 11.561 quads). While energy produced from coal increased over its 2019 level (10.703 quads), it was still less than any prior year going back to the early 1960s.

However, domestic energy production from all fossil fuel sources combined (i.e., oil and natural gas as well as coal) increased by 2.03% and accounted for 79.08% of the total. That, in turn, contributed to a 6.12% increase in carbon dioxide (C02) emissions attributable to U.S. energy consumption.

"The continued expansion of renewable energy's share of U.S. energy production and consumption is encouraging," noted the SUN DAY Campaign's executive director Ken Bossong. "However, EIA's latest data provide a clear warning that the pace of that growth must accelerate rapidly if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change."  


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SOURCES: The U.S. Energy Information Administration released its latest "Monthly Energy Review" on March 29, 2022. The data cited in this release can be found at, or extrapolated from, the following tables: 

Table 1.1 Primary Energy Overview:
Table 1.2 Primary Energy Production by Source:
Table 1.3 Primary Energy Consumption by Source:

Table 10.1 Renewable Energy Production and Consumption by Source:
Table 11.1 Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Energy Consumption by Source:
Table 11.7 Carbon Dioxide Emissions From Biomass Energy Consumption:



The SUN DAY Campaign is a non-profit research and educational organization founded in 1992 to aggressively promote 100% reliance on sustainable energy technologies as cost-effective alternatives to nuclear power and fossil fuels and as a strategy for addressing climate change.  

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Apr 1, 2022

Color me unimpressed by the fact that new wind and solar capacity continues to be built. The rate at which it's being built is far too low to arrest the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels this century. In fact globally, the rise in atmospheric CO2 appears to be accelerating, not slowing down. Much less retreating.

Joe Deely's picture
Joe Deely on Apr 3, 2022

The rate at which it's being built is far too low to arrest the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels this century. In fact globally, the rise in atmospheric CO2 appears to be accelerating, not slowing down. Much less retreating.

From the electric power point of things its really pretty simple. 

WW demand is growing at about 500 TWh per year. So in other to start reducing CO2 - zero carbon sources need to grow faster. That's not happening yet. 

As you can see from the chart below - in the last five years we see renewables growing at about 300 TWh/year, Hydro growing at about 80 TWh/year and nuclear growing at about 24 TWh/year.

Hydro growth will probably slow down. Renewables will get to 400 TWh/year short term and 500 TWh/year medium-term.  The problem is really nuclear which needs to start seeing 100 TWH/year growth. How likely is that? Short-term - unlikely. Medium-term  - maybe?

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