A new study shows the rise of renewable energy and how close it is to dethroning nuclear energy. Renewable energy is growing at a fast pace. Will it be the main source of energy in the future? (Image credit: gong hangxu/iStock)


As concerns about global warming and climate change grow, the call for renewable energy keeps growing. A new article from Forbes tracks the rise of renewable energy around the world. Their findings show that while coal is still the main source of electricity around the world, natural gas has taken the top spot in the States. Renewable energy, in general, has grown steadily over the decade and may soon take over nuclear energy globally.


In 2018, nuclear power was responsible for 2,701 Terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity generation, compared to 4,193 TWh for hydropower and 2,480 for renewables. But looking at the growth rates of nuclear energy, studies show that from 2007 to 2017, coal-generated energy grew at an annual average of 1.7% while nuclear energy declined annually by 0.4% after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011. Hydropower generation grew at an average annual rate of 2.8%.


During that same time period, renewable energy grew at an average annual rate of 16.4%. Breaking it down by category, we see that power from geothermal and biomass grew at an annual average of 7.1%. Wind and solar power, by contrast, grew at an annual average of 20.8% and 50.2%, over the decade.


In terms of which countries are adapting renewable energy the most, China came out on top as the world’s leading producer of solar power in 2018. Their solar power usage increased by 50.7% over 2017. From 2007 to 2017, China increased solar generation at an average annual rate of just over 100%. U.S. took second place globally with a 16.6% share. U.S. solar power usage increased by 24.4% over 2017, and over the decade, the U.S. has increased solar power at an average annual rate of 53.2%. Rounding out the Top 5 countries in solar power generation are Japan (12.3% share), Germany (7.9% share), and India (5.3% share).


Wind power surpasses solar energy in global electricity generation. In 2018, wind power was used to generate 1,270 TWh of power, versus 585 TWh for solar power. But with the consistent growth of solar power, it’s likely it’ll surpass wind power during the next decade. Once again, China was the top producer of wind power with a 28.8% global share. And the U.S. was second with a 21.9% share, followed by Germany (8.8% share), India (4.7% share), and the UK (4.5% share).


So while nuclear power generated energy is still ahead, it’s quickly falling out of favor. In 2017, the world produced 22% more power from nuclear than it did from modern renewables. In 2018, the nuclear lead was less than 9%. As renewable energy continues to be adapted and grows, we may see it surpass nuclear power production sooner than we think. That being said, renewable energy still isn’t at a point where they are shrinking demand for fossil fuel. To reach this point, there’s clearly still more that needs to be done.


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