Three Quarters Compared
During the first three quarters of 2014, (January through September) Vermont Yankee was running. During the first three quarters of of 2015, it had shut down.
Scott Luft writes the ColdAir blog, which is mostly concerned with Canadian energy issues. http://coldair.luftonline.net. However, in early December, Luft tweeted some comparisons of energy sources in the Northeastern U.S., before and after Vermont Yankee shut down. Similar charts are below.
|Changes in Fuel Usage: New England Grid|
Comparison of first nine months 2015 to similar 2014
Comparison of first quarter 2015 to last quarter 2014
The rise of natural gas with the fall of nuclear
First look at the top chart--the nine-month comparisons. About 1500 GWh more electricity was produced in the first nine months of 2015 than in the first nine months of 2014 (see the "all fuels" line). Almost all of the change in electricity (top chart) was produced by an expansion of the use of natural gas, making up for the drop in nuclear and coal. There was also an expansion of utility-scale photovoltaic energy, but the vast majority of the change in power supply was expanded use of natural gas.
One anti-nuclear commentator challenged these results, saying that looking at the first three quarters was a clever way to cherry pick data and avoid the true story of what really happened. Nuclear and natural gas use both fell between the last quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015.
And indeed, they both did (second chart).
This wasn't anything to be proud of, however. The first quarter of the year is quite cold in the Northeast, and people use natural gas to heat their homes. Therefore, many natural gas-fired power plants cannot obtain fuel. Oil and coal take up the slack. Nowadays, natural gas plants are equipping themselves to be dual-fired, so they can burn oil.
Nuclear went down, natural gas wasn't available, and oil and coal use went up. Nothing to celebrate. We're not looking at "green" energy expanding.
You can double-click to expand the charts.
History of the charts
After I saw Luft's tweet, I contacted Scott Luft and asked him about his sources. Luft very kindly re-produced his sources and spreadsheets. Luft's information came from several queries to the EIA data browser.
Luft had pulled the information into spreadsheets. Later, my husband George pulled the same data into the Macintosh spreadsheet that he likes better. Then he made the charts from the data. The data from his spreadsheets is shown below. It is all based on queries to this EIA database.
Deepest appreciation to Scott Luft and George Angwin.
History of the anti-nuclear comments
Also, Scott Luft compiled a "storify" of his twitter interchange with Mark Z. Jacobson on this subject. In my opinion, Jacobson comes off badly in the exchange. It doesn't take complex work to show the flaws in Jacobson's arguments. You simply start with quoting him directly, and the facts take it from there.