Here’s Where U.S. Electricity Comes From

JAN 17 2016 BY MARK KANE 121

The rotor of a modern steam turbine used in a power plant (Wiki)

The rotor of a modern steam turbine used in a power plant (Wiki)

The environment impact of electric vehicles are highly related to the source of electricity for charging those vehicles and this topic always attracts a lot of interest.

U.S. Energy Information Administration provides data for sources of U.S. electricity generation. As 2015 just closed, these numbers released are for full year 2014 (update: data through October 2015 is also below).

The truth is that on average most electricity comes from steam turbines. Turbine is a power generator driven by steam, that comes from heated water in a boiler. The heat is generated by burning fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) or biomass in a furnace, or in case of nuclear power plants, by nuclear fission.

If we sum all the steam turbines in the U.S., their share we should get nearly 88%.

In 2014, Renewable sources of energy stands at 13% (including biomass). Their advantage is that you don’t burn anything (at last not directly). Hydro is 6.24%, while Wind at 4.42%. There’s Geothermal at 0.39% and Solar at 0.39%.

Those are average, as there are places with higher and lower values – the ultimate goal is to reverse proportions and have most of our electricity produced from renewable sources.

2015 Update (through October):

  • Coal – 34.1% (-4.8% vs 38.9%)
  • Nat Gas – 32.4% (+5.0% vs 27.4%)
  • Nuclear – 19.2% (-.2% vs 19.4%)
  • Renewable – 13.1% (+.2% vs 12.9%

We should note that although solar is a fraction piece of the renewable pie, production is already up 49% in 2015 over 2014 through October.  Solar accounts for .66% of all US electricity generation so far in 2015.

Here’s Where U.S. Electricity Comes From (source: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Here’s Where U.S. Electricity Comes From (source: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Categories: General

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

121 Comments on "Here’s Where U.S. Electricity Comes From"

newest oldest most voted

Reprint From Inside EV’s
April 30, 2015 at 8:27 am



“”A conservative estimate is that we have an amount of electricity unused at night that’s equal to the output of 65 to 70 nuclear power plants between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) stated before the Senate Energy and National Resources Committee.

“I suspect that’s probably our greatest unused resource in the United States. If we were to use that to plug in cars and trucks at night, we could electrify 43 percent of our cars and trucks without building one new power plant.””

“Ed. Now if only there was only some way to store this massive, daily, off-peak, wasted, Over Generation of electricity, for base load peak energy demand…”

Link Goes To Inside EVs Comments Section, April 30, 2015-


Thomas J. Thias



Storage batteries for everyone!

Elon Musk’s goal is batteries for residential customers as well as vehicles, hence the Giga Battery facility.

Commercial customers too.

Yeah, the market for commercial- or industrial-scale Tesla PowerPacks is growing a lot faster than the market for residential PowerWalls.

Go Tesla!

Yes and horrible right wing legislation, such as what is happening in NV, will drive even more people to purchase a power wall.

Oh you want to charge me double the price for my own electricity that a I produced? Fine then you can’t have it.

The power company needs to pay off a huge distribution grid and generation assets. The requirement that they pay the same for power they give to you as what they pay you was never based on economic reality.

I am not a power company wonk. I think they should die. But in the long run, it was always going to be cheaper and more reasonable to self store your power rather than send it on to the grid.

I kind of disagree, while I don’t consider the utilities to be wonderful it seems to me the best use of any RE generated is to NOT store it and send it to someone who needs it now. I see this as the function of utilities of the future. Storage certainly has it’s place and as prices drop will have an expanding role but it will always be cheaper and more efficient to use it when you make it. The challenge is getting the utilities to accept and embrace their future role in transmission, backup and possibly grid scale storage and price their rates realistically for the new reality.

Lithium batteries for storage is pipe dream from reading too much Musk advertising.
They are too expensive and no way can store energy for next winter season anyway like natural gas storage can do.

The only way to make wind/solar usable is to use hydro when it is possible (most of the time it is not possible) and convert excess to hydrogen or synthetic methane. Net metering incentive will go away once too many people will take advantage of it, as it is already happening in places like Nevada. You will need to pay monthly fee for grid to keep power plants ready all the time to provide full backup power for you or disconnect and manage your power on your own (like in stone age).

LOL. That’s why nobody’s buying them right?
They’ve booked years of production.

You are seeing things a bit too simplistic.

There are various cycles to take into consideration. You only take the seasonal variation in energy use and energy generation.

The other ones are the daily cycle of energy demand and solar generation, and the multiday variation in wind/cloud patterns. And there is a (mild) weekly cycle in energy demand.

I agree that battery storage for seasonal storage is not feasible, with no current or foreseeable battery technology. But we don’t need that, as solar and wind are complementary. Wind is stronger in winter and solar in summer.

For the other, much shorter cycles batteries are certainly a feasible solution. But I suspect not lithium-ion, but instead cheaper technologies only suitable for stationary use (eg Aquion).

Thanks for raising the subject. Yes, the cost/benefit analysis for grid energy storage greatly depends on how long you intend to store it. Li-ion batteries are certainly worth the cost to balance grid output/input for a few minutes, to even out spikes in demand, to give the on-demand power plants time to spin up, and to smooth out the peaks and lows of power from a wind farm. What would benefit electric utilities (or neighborhood power collectives, or large commercial buildings, or power-intensive industries) the most is being able to even out demand over a 24 hour cycle, and I question that li-ion batteries will ever be cheap enough for that. I hope some better solution will present itself. Isentropic Ltd. was working on storing energy by heating and cooling gravel in insulated silos, but I haven’t seen any news from the company in a couple of years, so my guess is they couldn’t make their system efficient enough. I haven’t seen any other proposal for large-scale, relatively cheap energy storage which looked promising. Those who talk about storing power for weeks or months, or a whole season, simply aren’t being realistic. It would cost far less to build out,… Read more »

why do you need to store electricity for seasonal use? Makes zero sense. Unless you live in Alaska, you can get some sunshine every day.

Because winter generation is 1/2 of summer. So you can build twice the generating capacity or have storage.

But it isn’t that simple. You have less solar for hot water generation in winter so you need to use backup more.

In NC (the South), I need twice as much electricity in the winter as heating is harder than cooling. Imagine the ratio in the NE.

Then my EVs need more electricity in the winter since they need to heat and there is more air resistance.

I use twice as much electricity in the winter and I use NG for really cold nights. I generate 1/2 as much. So to even get close I need 4 times as many panels. Guess what – I don’t have the roof for that

We need to think beyond just putting solar panels on rooftops. Perhaps solar panels on an elevated frame in the back yard is something which should become commonplace.

A passive house would be very helpful here.

Low angle sun exposure can reach into the house in the winter giving you lots of passive heating. High angle in the summer is blocked by an overhang, saving your cooling costs.

That combined with extremely good insulation will get you by on a tiny fraction of the electrical energy needed by a conventional house.


Geothermal heat pumps can also be very helpful to balance the residential environmental control load.

I Los Angeles they pump water uphill at night. it was used with old steam plants in the 1960s.Now it is used with wind and solar to store the power.

Batteries are great for EV’s, homes to microgrids but the volume of Gwhrs needed for grid production, isn’t
But this chart is way out of date already. Coal for instance shipping is down 30% from last yr dropping coal under 30% of generation.
NG is now the largest power producer and it, RE will both get even more until coal is retired and nukes age out or break as most will in the next 15 yrs. We lost 5 recently this way of around 100.
Also efficiency of building codes, EnergyStar has cut demand so much even with more, larger homes, buildings and people, US utility demand has dropped the last 5 yrs.
RE power has increased to 17% and growing fast especially now finances are set for 5 yrs+ the industry can rely on.
Soon you won’t be able to buy a home that doesn’t make it’s own power and so many others utilities, FF’s will be 25% of now in 20 yrs.
At this rate of change even 1 yr old data is seriously out of date.

Any environmentalist that doesn’t want to expand nuclear power isn’t being logical. They are being manipulated. Nukes are cleaner and if they are built all using the same design they can be much cheaper than they have been in the past. Waste is not an issue, burn it in a breeder. What is left will fit in a small cave.

I agree with you, but the lower cost claim is way too unproven right now. Certainly it’s beyond stupid to shut down existing plants or pass on refurbishing opportunities.

New nuclear should probably come after somebody figures out small modular molten salt, as we can also use that for industrial heat. Aside from rare circumstances, renewables don’t stand a chance in displacing those emissions.

it’s not like 100% waste, you burn less coal/gas

I have to second @buu.

I examined this issue last year, asking researchers and analysts in that field (people not hostile to EVs by any means), and according to them nowadays little to no waste coal gets burned at night. It might have been different a couple of decades ago, but not now.

Older power plants can’t be cycled several times per day. It may take days for them to reach full power. For nuclear, it doesn’t make sense to cycle them even if technically possible as most costs are capital costs to build them, fuel is just small fraction.

Newer gas turbines can be cycled in seconds, though efficiency may suffer. E.g. theoretical 60% would become 50% in practice. It may be enough to keep up with day/night demand changes, especially when you have interconnections in whole US/Canada grid. Still, you need capital to build them, and solar/wind is worth as much as natural gas fuel for these plants, or wind/solar price may even go to zero if you exceed capacity of newer plants.

GE indicated that their “fast change” megawatt class natural gas fired turbines take 10 minutes to change output levels.

Still pretty quick.

Do you have any links, this sounds very interesting.

That is why electricity companies should be building quick charging stations and equip them with a healthy amount of local storage. Not only would this local storage be useful for quick charging but it could also be redirected to the grid as needed, depending on usage patterns.

Cost of such battery power far exceeds peak wholesale cost of power generators. It makes no sense.

Germany is doing much more in renewable energy field than US. Recently they announced big project using some lithium batteries. But it is not for day/night rate arbitrage, but for very short term grid balancing. E.g., it may give some minutes to turn on another power generator. What is all this renewable energy cost for end users? Residential rate is something like 0.3 EUR in Germany. And they still have big natural gas storage for winter use, and still use natural gas and coal. Guess how many US voters would support such?

I realize that in Germany, utility costs are even more State-regulated than they are here in the USA, and prices may not be a reflection of true costs. But even still, I suspect if Germany had not gone so far out in over-subsidizing solar power, which of course has lead to over-building it, and if they didn’t throw away money on impractical schemes such as using hydrogen generation for stationary power storage, then likely their utility rates wouldn’t be so high.

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” — Oscar Wilde

A moderate amount of subsidizing “green” energy is a good thing, and it has for example helped greatly lower the cost of solar panels. But Germany has gone too far with trying to push “green” tech before it’s practical, and is literally paying the price.

Germany foolishly shutting down all their commercial nuclear power plants was pretty foolish of them, too. Being pro-green doesn’t mean you have to be anti nuclear power. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, has seen the light on that:

Yeah it might still be a little too expensive but you could offset some of that cost by selling quick charging electricity at a premium.
Still, establishing a presence on the market is important to do now. Massive batteries may come later when they are cheaper, just make sure to prepare for it in advance.

Please explain why you equate ‘massive…..wasted … over-generation of electricity’ to, an excess capacity, which is the situation that has existed for well over 100 years, and has been dealt with efficiently by investor-owned utilities with proper rate schedules, at least by the one that used to serve me. Of course, in my own state, our current governor’s father (Mario Cuomo) forced utilities to pay 6 cents per kwh for ‘competitive electricity’ when they could make it themselves for 2 cents and sold it for 5. Therefore, the new state-imposed solution bankrupted the utilities (the one servicing me included) the faster they sold electricity. For everyone wringing their hands about what is essentially just an overcapacity issue, the state in its corruption (something NYS is known for) more than doubled the amount of excess capacity, seeing as they now had more co-generation plants (totally ridiculous things that in the vast majority of cases were not co-generation, since they simply bought natural gas and sold electricity, since 6 cents / kwh was such a Bonanza as explained above that they didn’t care that they just pissed away most of the natural gas’ heat content. The only thing that stopped more of… Read more »

You can watch real-time supply, demand, cost, inter-grid flows, and fuel mix for the NYS electric grid in real-time on these interactive webpages:

Almost 2/3rds of the nation’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, in some parts of the country even more. The next time someone tells you EVs are clean, mention the truth.

There’s no growth in fossil fuels for electric generation. It’s all coming from solar and wind now, especially in the 10 southern states, especially Texas.

Solar is less then 5 cent per kWh, Wind is 2.5 cent per kWh for utility scale projects.

…and the “Don’t show fools a job half-done” principle strikes again. EVs enable us a clean *future*. Not a single one of these fossil plants was built to meet EV needs, nor is any of them being kept at higher outputs to accommodate EVs, and – last but not least – no fossil plant will be built for EVs in the foreseeable future. EVs are still only 0.1% of the national fleet, and as they gradually grow, the grid is being cleaned, almost as fast as is feasible. The % renewable – which doesn’t include most rooftop-solar, by the way, only centralized solar – the % renewable is above what until a few years ago, the EIA has been forecasting for the 2020s. According to the EIA, in 2014-2015, renewables accounted for 23GW added capacity out of a net 16GW total added capacity. And again, this likely ignores much or even most of the rooftop-solar which is near-impossible for the EIA to track (or perhaps it’s not interested). Yes, you got it right, over 100% renewables added! How is that possible? Because Coal and Oil lost 19.5GW of capacity over the past 2 years. Coal alone lost 15GW just last… Read more »


You just saved me a whole lot of typing.

EVs are clean(er). They are not, unlike ICE cars, adding more pollution via the tailpipe. Is our electric grid 100% clean, no and we have a long way to go. The point is saying an EV is worse than an ICE or not a step in the right direction, is not truthful. My 7 year old sees that electric is the way to go, it is amazing that it’s the adults who don’t see what is best for everyone.

If you want to drive a vehicle in the US you can either use 100% fossil fuels (a non-EV) or two-thirds fossil fuels (EV). Which is the cleaner choice? The Natural Resources Defense Council has concluded there would be significant environmental benefits from everyone driving EVs. See their press release on the environmental impact of EVs here:

Here’s the current situation with Solar, and of course you don’t know because Fox Idiots won’t tell you.

Solar now employs more people then the Carbon Industry.

Solar is ready for EV’s and EV’s are improving at a rapid pace.

The number of people it takes to make solar work is not something to brag about. Maybe we can fix that.

Come on. Stop and think first.
These fields have 30+ years of production, with minimum maintenance.
The reason there’s such a big rollout is, Easy Installation, No Regulatory Burden, because there’s no accident risk, and no pollution, unlike All Other Carbon Solutions.

And the price point is now cheaper then all fossil fuels.

Better to put ordinary Americans to work for life in solar than to pay Arab royalty, or pay the military to install puppet governments overseas to sell off their fields to Wall Street, or pay the Kochs for their crusade to restore the rule of big landowners over government while throwing a few pennies at a guy destroying mountains. The Asian economic miracles were founded with the priority of creating jobs to pay to put kids in good schools and then create better jobs – NOT creating speculator bubbles that have subsequently bedeviled them.

The economy exists to serve people, not vice versa.

Battery cars are cleaner because they don’t emit straight through tailpipe, that is big issue in big cities. That is all. Pretending that they are changing the world, are holy, cure all diseases or will prevent climate change any time soon is just stretching too much.

EV’s have a Vast Efficiency Advantage, that even makes up for coal production of energy. 85-90% efficiency is a massive advantage. Not needing a carbon infrastructure to be built and maintained is also a huge non-polluting advantage.

Whereas the ICE and hydrogen cycles are 15-17% efficient. That a huge sinkhole to crawl out of, and they cannot.
Plus, you have to match the pollution sources of oil:
Refinery, Trucking and Trains are hugely inefficient compared to electricity.

And remember, these coal plants are being shut down Now, because of Fracking cheap natural gas, and now ultra cheap wind power.

Don’t bother, zzzzzzzzzz clearly doesn’t understand the subtle differences between “fuel source” vs. “efficiency”.

You can be inefficient with any fuel source, and ICE vehicles are terribly inefficient — by far, the biggest product from their fuel they consume is heat, not motion.

Electric vehicles are very efficient in comparison — very little heat generated, mostly motion as output. Plus, they are can also recapture kinetic energy.

Show me the last ICE vehicle that put gasoline back in its tank while braking or going downhill.

Never mind dinging EVs on “fuel source”. An EV on 34% coal, 34% natural gas (~2015 mix), is hard to find.
3 miles per kwh
.34 (900lbs/MWh, nat gas) + .34 (1,800lb/MWh, coal) = .918lb / kwh
21lbs of CO2/gallon

The break even, on CO2, from above is about 23mpg. While that doesn’t look good, a heat map of where the EVs are would go along with where renewables and natural gas are. States like CA and MA are closer to a third of a pound/mile CO2, with single digit coal usage. Natural gas units run ~900lbs/MWh, where coal averages DOUBLE this.

It is the heartland of the U.S., where states relying 60-90% on coal won’t spend an extra 2-4 cents per kwh to replace it. They are the ones skewing the average, and giving fodder for people like zzzzzzz to argue we should run faster toward the wall.

Uhh, it’s worse than that.

I don’t believe your “21 lbs of CO2 per gallon” includes all the CO2 produced extracting, refining, and transporting that gallon of gasoline — all before an ICE even burns it.

ICE vechicles use more electricity than EVs. And that does not even count all the wasted energy in the gasoline.

However you must also take into account the fact that the majority of ev buyers are also photovoltaic electricity installation buyers, this completely changes the specific electric mix of ev drivers. The traditional numbers are halved and the resulting missing 50% is filled with 50% extra electricity from pv origin. This is an extra benefit to the credit of ev drivers and ev driving.

Yawn. You can actually see how much cleaner EV’s are than gas cars where you live at

To actually see what the grid mix is on a regional basis and how clean this makes EV’s over gas cars, check out page 12 of

Burning things to make electricity or using renewables are as much a social phenomena as technical or economic as all sources of electricity are subsidized financially or with regulations that allow degradation of environments and body parts not owned by the utilities. The reason California leads in renewables is the same reason they lead in electric cars. To the extent that a state has electric cars, it is because those that buy or will be early adopters of electric cars also vote for politician that push subsidies for renewable energy over subsidies for non-renewable sources of electricity. So one can say that the electric cars are running on pure renewables because if it were not for the electric car buyers, there would be much less of it. Folks who are not convinced or are uneducated about renewables are more likely to support renewables when they ride in an electric car or see solar panel on a roof, so being an early adopter helps to change the system by the force of example. “U.S. sales are led by California with 129,470 plug-in electric vehicles registered between December 2010 and December 2014, representing about 45% of all plug-in cars sold in the… Read more »

I had some idiot on a previous job who liked to say to the EV owners (there were about 12 of us) that EVs were coal powered cars.

Kinda funny considering that here in Northern California coal powered plants are virtually non-existant. In california, as you state, the coal power percentage is below %10, and that is only because down south they still have a few.

My “friend” with the coal powered car routine thought he was funny, and of course was a manager so that nobody dared talk back to him.

SJC said:

“Almost 2/3rds of the nation’s electricity comes from fossil fuels, in some parts of the country even more. The next time someone tells you EVs are clean, mention the truth.”

First of all, the premise in that statement is factually incorrect. The 2/3 figure comes only by incorrectly lumping nuclear power in with “fossil fuels”, instead of correctly categorizing it as clean energy.

Secondly, a lopsided portion of EV sales are in States with much cleaner grid power, most notably California, Oregon, and Washington, all of which have disproportionately high sales of plug-in EVs.

Thirdly, an estimated 10% of PEV owners use residential solar power installations to offset some or all of the carbon emissions of charging their PEVs.

The next time someone claims that EVs “aren’t really green”, let them know that fallacy is based on a collection of half-truths and outright lies.

Edit/correction: I see I’ve made an error in claiming SJC’s assertion “Almost 2/3rds of the nation’s electricity comes from fossil fuels…” was lumping nuclear power in with fossil fuel power generation.

My mistake; according to the chart above, the 2/3 figure (66%) is from coal-fired plus natural-gas-fired power plants alone.

Apologies to SJC.

No problem, EVs are clean but not completely clean, the truth is always the way to go.

Unlike gas-burners, electric cars become cleaner over time as the grid is cleaned up (mandated in California).

As pointed out by numerous other posters, EV buyers can (and often do) choose to clean up their own local grid with solar.

There’s no reason that that move toward renewables can’t extend to businesses with solar-driven workplace charging. North Face, for example, has done it. Kaiser is installing massive parking lot arrays.

There is nothing “clean” about leaving radioactive waste for thousands of years from power plant that operates just few decades.
And there are huge construction emissions when building such plants, their capital costs are too high to make economical sense now for reason.

It is common fallacy of advocacy groups to point to savings on one side but completely ignore associated waste on other side to “prove” their point. Be it nuclear plants or dirty lithium battery production, whatever.

zzzzzzzzzz said:

“There is nothing ‘clean’ about leaving radioactive waste for thousands of years from power plant that operates just few decades.”

This is a problem which has been solved in France, by recycling 90% of the radioactive waste, for use in new fuel rods; and by taking the 10% remainder and dispersing it into particles embedded in stable glass blocks, where it will not contaminate the environment, even if floods or earthquakes occur.

Too bad the U.S. has not adapted the same strategy France uses, but they certainly could and should start that any day.

“And there are huge construction emissions when building such plants, their capital costs are too high to make economical sense now for reason.”

You could make the same argument about hydroelectric plants. That’s merely a matter of perspective, not fact. Advocates of “clean” energy claim that we should be willing to pay a bit more for clean energy. I agree, but that argument applies to clean nuclear power, too.

France has not solved the problem of nuclear waste.

Recycling of nuclear rods is a dirty business. You definitely would not like to work in such a facility. And definitely you would not like to swim in the area where they – legally – dump the remains into the ocean. Imagine a long tailpipe far into the ocean. That is what is happening…

Before nuclear can be called clean we will have to wait another 25 years at least…

Luckily in 25 years this discussion will already be obsolete.

Pushy — Where do you get the 10% number for solar?

In 2013, the percent of EV owners surveyed who either already had solar, or were planning to install solar was nearly 60%.

Then just 6 months ago, Ford EV owners were polled. 83 percent of EV drivers will consider or have already installed adding solar panels to charge their vehicles at home.

10% seems low.

The number is 1 in 10 EV owners currently already have a PV system…not using offsets, or considering solar tech in the future. Add in those factors and as you say it is north of 60%

Jay, what is the source of that 1 in 10 number? I can’t find a source saying that.

Nix asked:

“Pushy — Where do you get the 10% number for solar?”

That’s the figure Jay Cole used in a recent comment here at InsideEVs. I see he’s responded here, so I’ll say no more about that.

“10% seems low.”

I hope it is. This is something I’d like to see examined in detail. I’ve seen a 30% broadly quoted, but I don’t know how authoritative that is.

It also depends on how you’re counting it. I consider it just as fair to count offsetting the electricity use, as to count the direct use of solar energy. In my opinion, the question should be how much pollution and CO2 is being emitted to provide electricity to your house; the time of day you charge your EV shouldn’t matter.

All just my opinion, of course.

Most people charge over night so are just using some of the excess electricity otherwise disappearing unused.

Peak demand starts around sunset, in the evening. It is has “duck” form when a lot PV solar is used, which means day has excess power if sun is shining.

Solutions are already present. Batteries for peak shaving, pump storage for day night cycles and biomass storage for winter season extra production. No need to reinvent the wheel. Fossils are obsolete.

Compared to ICE vehicles, EVs ARE clean. Using the national average electricity portfolio, EVs generate 50% less life-cycle GHG emissions than ICE vehicles. As electricity generation gets cleaner using more renewable sources and less coal, EVs will become even cleaner. ICE vehicles will never compete with EVs on emissions. Plus, EV owners who have their own solar PV or wind turbines are driving close to or at 100% clean.

Thanks for your succinct explanation.
Almost 2/3rds of an EVs electricity comes from fossil fuels, while 3/3rds of an ICEVs gasoline comes from fossil fuels. It’s so obvious that EVs are a third cleaner! The next time someone tells me EVs are dirty, I’ll mention your truth.

A gallon of gas takes 3 kwh of power to refine. an EV can go 12 miles on that. Gasoline has a lot of wasted energy to it.

That quote from Senator Alexander from May, 2011, is easily misunderstood without additional context. He’s not talking about power which is actually being generated at night but rather that less power is generated at night.

It would be more efficient to generate a more constant level of power throughout the day rather than having wide swings of low power usage at night and then high usage during the day. Those usage swings cause power plants to be turned down or turned off part of the day in ways that reduce their ideal operating efficiency.

This low existing overnight usage is why we can charge millions of electric cars to the grid by charging overnight without needing to build new power plants.

The money from charging electric cars can easily pay for more fast cycling ccgt natural gas and wind turbines. I would be great to let coal fall to 20% as wind and ccgt natural gas and solar take over.

A 20 cent gas tax increase would be an even faster change over.

Instead of taxing 1% of auto’s, the clean ones. You’d tax the 99% of the dirty ones.

You can’t easily ramp coal up and down to meet demand, so most of those coal BTU (buu? b2u? I see what you did there 😉 really are wasted.

“but electricity generation is has been changing slowly of late, so we believe that not much has changed for 2015”

Actually due to natural gas prices cratering, there has been a significant shift from coal to natural gas in the US power market. According to EIA, through the first 10 months of 2015, coal and natural gas were running neck and neck as the leading source of energy for power generation. The data can be found here:

Hey Jeff, yes Nat Gas is a bigger player this year…will update the story with data for 2015 through October! /thanks

The article says: “The truth is that on average most electricity comes from steam turbines… The heat is generated by burning fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, and natural gas) or biomass in a furnace, or in case of nuclear power plants, by nuclear fission. “If we sum all the steam turbines in the U.S., their share we should get nearly 88%. “Renewable sources of energy stands at 13% (including biomass). Their advantage is that you don’t burn anything (at last not directly).” Sadly, this article perpetuates the myth that nuclear power isn’t “clean”. Even the U.S. government’s own energy statistics lumps nuclear power in with coal-fired plants, rating them at only 33% efficient because they use steam turbines to generate power. Here are the facts: Nuclear power generates absolutely no CO2, uses no fossil fuel, and in normal operation is one of the most pollution-free sources of power. If we’re rating power plants by how much or how little fossil fuel they use, then nuclear power is 100% efficient at generating power without use of fossil fuel, just like solar and hydroelectric. Opponents of commercial nuclear power, mainly the “green” movement and Big Oil, have unfortunately been quite successful at using… Read more »

I tend to think you are probably right. A shame that some people don’t look at the facts.

I’m surprised more people don’t point out that current nuclear is only around one percent efficient based on the energy contained in uranium. It’s true, but irrelevant.

China is putting in gobs of nuclear and doing the research for future reactors. Good for them, shame on us.

Actually, it is relevant, for 2 reasons:

1) We don’t have an endless supply of uranium. It is a non-renewable resource. Once it is gone, it is gone.

2) It takes energy to prospect for Uranium, mine uranium, process uranium, enrich uranium, store uranium waste, reclaim uranium mines, etc.

Uranium is not renewable but neither is sunlight. There is enough uranium or sunlight we don’t have to worry about it. However, if we do use uranium in the far future it will have to be with breeder reactors. We can also use thorium.

All the costs of getting uranium are reflected in its price. It’s very cheap for the power it produces.

Nix said:

“1) We don’t have an endless supply of uranium. It is a non-renewable resource. Once it is gone, it is gone.”

That’s true, and if commercial nuclear power were dependent only on uranium, that would be a problem, because rich deposits of uranium are rare. Fortunately, the new “Generation IV” nuclear power tech uses much more common thorium, and also has the advantage that such power plants can be built in such a way that they don’t generate weapons-grade nuclear materials.

However, even if we built out a lot more nuclear plants using the same tech as existing ones, breeder reactors could generate more fuel for them.

“2) It takes energy to prospect for Uranium, mine uranium, process uranium, enrich uranium, store uranium waste, reclaim uranium mines, etc.”

Sure, but far, far less energy than fossil fuels, because you only need a few pounds of refined uranium per year to power the plant… as opposed to 3900 tons of coal* each and every single day for a typical coal-fired plant!

*I’ve seen higher figures quoted, but I’m basing this figure on data from the article linked below: 1,430,000 tons per year for a “typical” 500 MW coal-fired power plant.

Thorium is only three to four times as abundant as uranium. That’s not a whole lot as element abundances go. The good thing about uranium is it is somewhat soluble in sea water, which could make for easy and environmentally friendly mining. The overturning of the Earth’s magma will replenish the ocean at nearly the rate we would use it.

In any case, it is not an immediate problem.

Ambulator said:

“Thorium is only three to four times as abundant as uranium. That’s not a whole lot as element abundances go.”

Okay, but asking how common thorium is in the Earth’s crust may give a misleading answer. A better question is how easy/cheap it is to mine and refine the type of thorium needed, as compared to how easy/cheap it is to mine and refine the type of uranium needed.

Quoting from Wikipedia’s “Occurrence of thorium” article:

Thorium is found in small amounts in most rocks and soils; it is three times more abundant than tin in the Earth’s crust and is about as common as lead. Soil commonly contains an average of around 6 parts per million (ppm) of thorium. Thorium occurs in several minerals including thorite (ThSiO4), thorianite (ThO2 + UO2) and monazite… Thorium-containing minerals occur on all continents. Thorium is several times more abundant in Earth’s crust than all isotopes of uranium combined and thorium-232 is several hundred times more abundant than uranium-235.

We’re not going to be using U-235 for very long.

The biggest advantage I see for thorium is it produces much less transuranic waste than uranium. I’m not sure whether that is important or not.

Either one will do as far as I’m concerned.

If you only consider CO2, nuke is clean. But nuke waste is nasty business, almost as bad as coal ash (some would say worse). If there’s widespread use of breeder reactors (cut waste by 90% or more) or yet-uninvented reactors that can convert nuke to electricity without radioactive waste, story would be different.

But as of now, most (all?) nuke are awful. Just ask the people in San Diego who have to deal with the mess of San Onofre closure.

Nuclear energy is dinosaur from nuclear weapon development age. It is going extinct, almost now new plants are built in places like US when you have other alternatives. Nuclear capital costs are way above any other power source costs, even with legislated waver of liability insurance. And you get locked into these capital costs for decades, and can’t reduce power as you need to repay capital anyway, and have nuclear wast for millennium. Makes no sense to me.

SparkEV said: “If you only consider CO2, nuke is clean. But nuke waste is nasty business, almost as bad as coal ash (some would say worse). If there’s widespread use of breeder reactors (cut waste by 90% or more) or yet-uninvented reactors that can convert nuke to electricity without radioactive waste, story would be different. “But as of now, most (all?) nuke are awful. Just ask the people in San Diego who have to deal with the mess of San Onofre closure.” First of all, SparkEV, I’d like to thank you for some rational discussion of the issue. That’s quite a relief compared to the responses I usually get on this issue. Many, if not most, industries have a problem with pollution, and contamination of the environment. Why is nuclear power singled out as if somehow, for that industry and no other, no contamination at all is acceptable? There are many, many industrial waste sites that have nothing to do with nuclear waste. If you get poisoned and die from exposure to some other type of industrial waste, will you be happy because it wasn’t radioactive? That seems doubtful! Nuclear waste is a boogeyman that anti-nuclear advocates have long used… Read more »
The problem is, every time there’s a nuclear accident, the technocratic brain trust of (USSR, USA, Japan) lies its ass off to the public, and then gets exposed. Then the public comes to fear and hate the technocrats, whom they can see don’t give a damn about victims. That doesn’t make them different than other technocratic cabals, but when it happens in the most important countries in the world – the 2 superpowers and the great technological machine of the late 20th century – people are right to think there’s a bigger problem. The problem, Pushmi-Pullyu, is that nuclear industries seem to all be run by sociopaths. I don’t know why it’s like that. Maybe because nuclear industries were all birthed by the need of nuclear militaries to make themselves appear beneficial, or in Japan’s case, its subjugation to the USA’s same need. But it creates a culture as broadly deceptive, insensitive, and paranoid as oil companies and investment banks but with far more tangible catastrophes. Maybe the French technocrats just haven’t had their unimaginable accident yet. Many of us are afraid to wait for such creatures to change, and there’s no one else we know of who can start… Read more »

” Of that, 90% could be recycled and reused, as the French do.”

Yup. That’s why I specifically point out breeders as potential. As far as I’m aware, there’s none planned in US.

Nuke waste in US is stored in situ, which makes the land pretty much unusable after decommission. San Onofre is a beautiful beach, it’ll forever be off limits or until the power that be figure out how to decontaminate / remove waste. As of now, there is no such plan (eg. no Yucca).

I also point other waste, such as coal ash. That is some seriously nasty stuff that, IMO, rival nuke waste.

So my point is that Nuke has potential (I think we agree), but the way it’s handled now in US makes it awful, and I don’t see any way out of it.

“I’d like to thank you for some rational discussion of the issue”

You’re welcome, and I know what you mean. When I mention breeders and other potential technological solutions, people’s eyes glaze over and they simply say “no nukes”. Yucca is an example. In this climate, I don’t see anything changing in US any time soon.

I am not opposed to nuclear power but with solar, wind power, pump storage and biomass for the remainder we simply don’t need it anymore. Mandatory roof tax or pv on the roof, wind generators where possible provides more than enough energy.
Another fact is that nuclear u235 fission reactors have simply become to hazardous to operate in the new world disorder of international islamist terrorism treats. One single reactor brought to voluntary explosion by suicide terrorist could contaminate an entire state or small country. If nuclear is to be part of a future mix it must be in the form of a thermonuclear system or for the very least a fission reactor that is made intrinsically safe by needing a constant activation by a particle accelerator or self inhibiting by some other systems. But in the future, we can simply not continue to take risk with past technology u235 system in light of present day treats.

I have wondered for years why none of the 9/11 hijackers crashed their airliner into the Crown Point nuclear reactor. The panic that would have caused would have crippled America for years, because all our institutions – financial, governmental, and infrastructural – would all have been exposed at once. I think whoever was cutting the orders for Mohammad Atta deliberately wanted to provoke the US without destroying it – like someone who had a lot of US $ holdings at risk. That covers an awful lot of the world’s masters.

I agree, BUT, the occurrence of several nuclear accidents has given nuclear a bad name. From which I suspect it will not recover.

I fully agree with PP on that.

Next time they “routine re-fuel” the GINNA Nuclear Station near me, I want PUPU to supervise closely to make sure they do it correctly.

“And NOW! A WORD from our SPONSOR:”

I didn’t know that PUPU did ads here.

Thanks, but I’ll leave that to those actually trained in such procedures. 🙂

Here in Kansas City, Kansas, I live about 80-90 miles almost directly (not quite, given the usual prevailing wind direction) downwind from the Wolf Creek Nuclear facility. Doesn’t bother me, and in fact I wish they would have added more reactors to the site, rather than the State of Kansas stupidly being one of the very last places to build new coal-fired power plants, a few years ago.

I’d much rather live downwind from a nuclear power plant than a coal-fired power plant, that’s for sure!

And no, my income is in no way dependent on the nuclear power industry. I’m just interested in, and widely read on, science and technological issues. It really irks me that official U.S. government websites give figures for nuclear power plants as though they were in most respects equivalent to coal-fired power plants.

I would not want to live downwind of a nuclear reactor in an earthquake zone like China.
You didn’t have to worry about earthquakes in Kansas before, but the fracking boom has caused so much waste water to be pumped under KS and OK that they’re becoming the world leader in small earthquakes. Will they stay small?

Actually, I was hoping you’d make a very close volunteer examination.

For those few who might be interested in hearing an authoritative, alternate view, since few care what I think personally, here’s a lot of information to educate oneself with – it provides a mechanism why ‘a little radiation really is *not* good for you’.

Its more in line with the comment a few posts above that most everyone on this subject lies all the time, and you have to be vigilant to keep people semi-truthful.

The national grid average is meaningless. It is like saying that the average American eats 130 lbs of sugar every year, and then pretending that it is impossible for any individual American to eat less (or more) sugar than 130 lbs. As if individuals had no control over their personal consumption. But the facts are very clear for EV’s. Owners do have control over their own consumption. EV owners are not simply settling for powering their EV’s from the grid. EV owners are installing solar, and wind, and joining solar collectives, signing up for WindSource and other green electricity sources. Furthermore, the distribution of EV owners is not at all even across the US. EV sales are much higher in states that also happen to have much greener grids than the national average. Often because the citizens of those states have backed politicians and legislation that has demanded cleaner electricity production in their states. The states with the worst grid numbers that are dragging down nation grid averages, also tend to have the least EV’s, the least laws supporting/requiring EV’s. So the national grid average is indeed meaningless. Because voters and individual EV owners aren’t stuck charging from an average… Read more »

Splitting grid into tiny pieces that don’t exist in practice is just wishful thinking to justify new toys. All mainland US/Canada grid is interconnected. Any green intermittent power source in California is directly or indirectly dependent on existence of national grid and backup from other states, and that means fossil fuel plants.

Lets stick to zero tailpipe emissions for battery cars, at least it is true.

zzzzzzzz You are incorrect on two fronts. You also unwittingly prove how green cars powered by solar actually have a disproportionate IMPROVEMENT to how dirty the grid is. 1) There is no such thing as a national grid in the US. There are 5 separate grids. Eastern, Western, Texas, Hawaii, and Alaska 2) Just because California is interconnected to dirtier states for the limited purpose of meeting summer peak demand, that does not change that the vast majority of California’s electricity is much cleaner than many other states. The tiny percent of electricity they get for summer peak demand from dirtier sources doesn’t change that. Yes, it is entirely possible to calculate how dirty the power is for your state, and even for your city, based upon where the vast majority of your electricity comes from throughout the year. This is regardless of whether some peak electricity comes from distant sources via the interconnected grid. Finally, you point out that California gets dirtier electricity to meet peak demand from sources outside of their normal greener sources. That is true. But you failed to acknowledge that EV owners with their solar panels have a direct impact of producing electricity into… Read more »

zzzzzzz – if you are unfamiliar with the 26 different eGRID subsystem, please review these sources, because it is not only easy to determine how clean separate grid subsystems are, the EPA has already done it:

It is based upon known science and well established data and math:

Oh, and in case you question whether solar is cutting down on electricity coming from dirtier grids at peak time, please review this:

“nearly half of the incremental PV generation in California is displacing out of state generation”

That is from your own source you posted earlier.


Thank you, muchly, for posting Truths, and fighting the EV-hating trolls here.

No matter how you subdivide, slice, dice or minimize it, there is a nearly unimaginable amount of power generation wasted, everywhere. I have the deepest hope that, in examining efficiencies everywhere, capturing that waste -in any way possible- is an ongoing effort. I am noisily on record in believing electrolysis is one method.

As batteries take up ~6 semi trailers to provide power to 140 homes for 24 hours (in moderate conditions), Space will continue to block their ability to perform economically (avoiding the Initial cost issue, entirely).

Thanks Mark for your summary and reminder of these issues, and thanks posters for the patient additional thoughts and info regarding a divisive subject, particularly with the wealth of conflicting data that floods our internet.

“…there is a nearly unimaginable amount of power generation wasted, everywhere…”

Care to elaborate on that with a few examples? No?

I thought most of the people here had at least a passing familiartity with how how power gets to their cars, along with central station operation.

A few seem to understand,

But I have questions about the more verbose. Maybe that’s just unimaginable.

Nahh, Bill, I’m just too lazy – Base is calculated and necessarily produces more than is used in -ok I’ll settle for- many power generation facilities. Some do not waste output capacity at points of low demand andt every kWh produced is performing work? I was not aware of that being the case, let alone that the waste is so easily comprehended and worthless.

My apparent hyperbole is what huge numbers ‘the Many’ reach on a worldwide scale, but my reading must have precluded the ‘passing familiarity’ necessary to understand.

I would be interested in hearing about a generating facility that does not experience any waste, but won’t ask, as I was unwilling to track down my findings and post them. My googles of the subject Seemed to be somewhat conclusive, but my first hand knowledge is limited, and I must rely on credentialed reports from others.

I have no idea what your last sentence means.

While both being fossil fuels, nat gas does not equal coal. Not even close. An EV powered by nat gas is cleaner than the equivalent average ICE vehicle, not only in absolute emissions but nearly infinitely more so in localized emissions.

Natural gas is CH4. You might say, an EV is 4/5ths hydrogen fueled.

koz said:

“An EV powered by nat gas is cleaner than the equivalent average ICE vehicle, not only in absolute emissions but nearly infinitely more so in localized emissions.”


According to a Scientific American article: “Coal-based plants emitted on average 32 ounces of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt hour of energy, compared with 19 ounces for natural gas plants.”

Of course, CO2 isn’t the whole story, and from the standpoint of actual pollution (as opposed to global warming), may not be the most important emission. But CO2 emission does serve as a useful yardstick for estimating overall air pollution emissions.

Air pollution in the USA has been declining: Hopefully people believe the EPA is a neutral party. Much, but not all of this has been the increasing takeup from natural gas, due to the greatly increased domestic production. Even the coal producers have stated that NG plants are cheaper to build and operate. They simply don’t want to build new plants. We are rapidly moving towards an all NG fed grid, which will greatly improve air quality. The other nice quality of NG (and coal, to be fair), is that the generation of power from it can be increased or decreased virtually at will, meaning that it can be brought online during peak power draw. NG further has the ability to cheaply drive local or “micro” generation facilities, located in urban areas where the power draw is. Because NG is virtually its own storage medium (it can be stored in tanks, and even liquefied if needed), it really does not need auxiliary storage such as batteries. Obviously that does not help when storing wind energy, which generally peaks at night. It does mean that the grid can tolerate a mix of power generation, solar, wind, hydro, better because NG… Read more »

Why is Geothermal so low?

That is a wonderful and clean resources that should be used more often…

Yes, that’s right it should be used way more. Not only in Iceland or Japan where the resource is obvious but also in places where drilling down deep is entirely justified by a preexisting urban heating system like in New-York. They could finance a drill to replace the enormous amounts of fossil fuel that the city system is using every year to heat the buildings in Manhattan.
In other places direct dry rock technology could generate electricity and heat as well. They directly benefit from oil directional drill systems, so the challenges remaining ahead are more ones of permits and political will rather than technology.

Texas and Louisiana are probably the places that could most easily create a large amount of geothermal-heated hot water that could be used for various purposes. Unfortunately, that’s because they’re covered with countless abandoned oil & gas fields, and the know-how to extract the heat from them is found within oil & gas companies. They are not at all interested in doing that.

There is a lot of it in northern California. It does not get much press. I see it when flying, the plants using it generate a lot of steam.

ModernMarvelFan asked:

“Why is Geothermal so low?”

Because the power generation of a heat engine depends on the temperature difference between the hottest and coldest areas, and in most places, the Earth’s crust is too thick to produce much temperature difference between the surface and the temperature of a hole at a depth to which we can afford to drill.

Basically, only areas where geothermal activity is common (examples include Yellowstone Park and the Pacific “Ring of Fire”) are considered areas where it’s economical to build geothermal power plants.

We can hope that future tech developments will include the ability to drill much deeper holes affordably, so that geothermal could be useful almost anywhere. Unfortunately I haven’t seen much evidence of R&D in this area.

After billion$ of investments, incentives and subsidies…wind and solar contributes a staggering (34%+3%) x 13% = 4.81% of total electrical energy generation in 2014.

This is why I support nuclear energy. Clean, green and reliable.

After 60 years of subsidies both overt and hidden in the military-industrial complexes of nuclear states, nuclear is now down to 19% and falling. And since it’s now more expensive, what’s the point? I mean, what part of below 5 cents per kwh wholesale don’t you understand? That’s where renewables are arriving in more and more places. If we really have free markets that should be all that matters, right?

The pink elephant in all this “energy generation” talk in an PEV forum is the focus on production vs actual source(s) being used to charge PEVs. The generalized grid view like saying all Americans eat is hamburgers as they are the largest food item(s) sold by fast food chains. To better understand the electric energy dichotomy, we need to study consumption, not production at scale! How about taking a look state by state of energy used to charge in that state and weighted by the number of PEVs is that state? eg: in California ~1/4 of energy is from renewables, and over ~35% of PEV charge via energy created by residential solar PV (a source not included in large capacity energy source summaries). Add Oregon, Washington PEVs to California fleet and they total over 1/2 of PEVs in US. The energy mix on west coast contains a high percentage of renewable energy … both Oregon, Washington source over 80% from hydro! The west coast influence in energy source contrasts and by averaging; greatly reduces US fleet average for the other 45 lower states compared to national grid average grid energy produced locally. No one knows in any detail what the… Read more »