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Nuclear Takes Back Seat in United States, but Drives the Bus in China

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Nuclear Takes Back Seat in United States, but Drives the Bus in China

Nuclear Takes Back Seat in United States, but Drives the Bus in China

Earlier this month, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo suggested that the Indian Point nuclear facility should be shut down for good. The reactor had a transformer fire on May 9 that shut down part of the reactor, but also discharged thousands of gallons of oil into the Hudson River.

This is not an uncommon theme in the United States. As the above infographic shows, the vast majority of nuclear reactors have been steaming along for decades and are approaching their decommissioning date. With only four reactors under construction and just a handful of planned or proposed facilities, nuclear has now taken a backseat in the United States.

Across the Pacific Ocean, China is taking a different approach.

United States and China reactors

While the United States is looking to slow down the role of nuclear in its energy mix, China is boldly trying to build up its capacity by an additional 40 to 58 GW before 2020. This aggressiveness in building energy capacity is not only slotted for nuclear, but also in wind, hydro and coal.

Original graphic by: Scientific American

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Visualized: Renewable Energy Capacity Through Time (2000–2023)

This streamgraph shows the growth in renewable energy capacity by country and region since 2000.

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The preview image for a streamgraph showing the change in renewable energy capacity over time by country and region.

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The following content is sponsored by National Public Utilities Council

Visualized: Renewable Energy Capacity Through Time (2000–2023)

Global renewable energy capacity has grown by 415% since 2000, or at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4%.

However, many large and wealthy regions, including the United States and Europe, maintain lower average annual renewable capacity growth.

This chart, created in partnership with the National Public Utilities Council, shows how each world region has contributed to the growth in renewable energy capacity since 2000, using the latest data release from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Renewable Energy Trends in Developed Economies

Between 2000 and 2023, global renewable capacity increased from 0.8 to 3.9 TW. This was led by China, which added 1.4 TW, more than Africa, Europe, and North America combined. Renewable energy here includes solar, wind, hydro (excluding pumped storage), bioenergy, geothermal, and marine energy.

During this period, capacity growth in the U.S. has been slightly faster than what’s been seen in Europe, but much slower than in China. However, U.S. renewable growth is expected to accelerate due to the recent implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Overall, Asia has shown the greatest regional growth, with China being the standout country in the continent.

Region2000–2023 Growth10-Year Growth (2013–2023)1-Year Growth (2022–2023)
Europe313%88%10%
China1,817%304%26%
United States322%126%9%
Canada57%25%2%

It’s worth noting that Canada has fared significantly worse than the rest of the developed world since 2000 when it comes to renewable capacity additions. Between 2000 and 2023, the country’s renewable capacity grew only by 57%.  

Trends in Developing Economies

Africa’s renewable capacity has grown by 184% since 2000 with a CAGR of 4%. 

India is now the most populous country on the planet, and its renewable capacity is also rapidly growing. From 2000–2023, it grew by 604%, or a CAGR of 8%.

It is worth remembering that energy capacity is not always equivalent to power generation. This is especially the case for intermittent sources of energy, such as solar and wind, which depend on natural phenomena.

Despite the widespread growth of renewable energy worldwide, IRENA emphasizes that global renewable generation capacity must triple from its 2023 levels by 2030 to meet the ambitious targets set by the Paris Agreement.

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