Part 3: Putting the “E” in EVs

How much electricity is currently generated? How is it generated? So what?
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In Parts 1 & Part 2, we concluded:

    • The U.S. currently consumes about 4 trillion kWh of electricity per year
    • About 1.5 trillion kWh (about 40% of the total) is consumed in residential use … about 1/2 of that is used by HVAC & hot water heaters
    • A scant amount of electricity is currently being consumed for “transportation” … and, practically all of that is used by public transit systems.
    • If all vehicles currently on the road were to be replaced by EVs, recharging their batteries would consume an additional 1 trillion kWh of electricity.

All of which raises a couple of  central questions: Does the U.S. have the electricity generation capacity to service a full national fleet of EVs?

Short answer: no.

So, where will the additional electricity come from?

Today, we’ll set the context by looking at our current supply of electricity…

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According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)….

Total U.S. electricity generation in 2021 was about 4.12 trillion kWh.

There are four fuel “sources” for electricity generation: natural gas (38%), coal (22%), renewables (20%) and nuclear (19%).

in the past 10 years, total electricity generation has stayed virtually constant at around 4 trillion kWh … but the mix of fuel sources has changed.

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Coal and nuclear power have declined in the overall mix of fuel sources … coal by a lot, nuclear by a little … natural gas and renewables have increased and are, together, account for about 60% of fuel for electricity.

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Digging deeper in the  category of renewable fuel sources….

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  • From 2011 to 2021, electricity fueled by renewables increased by over 60% to 826 billion kWh … which is accounts for 20% of the electricity generated.
  • About 2/3s of the increase is attributable to wind power … which provides about half of the renewable fuel used to generate electricity … and about 9% of the total fuel that goes into electricity generation.
  • Almost 1/3rd of the increase is attributable to solar power … which provides about 3% of the total fuel that goes into electricity generation.

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Takeaways

  • Electricity generation has stayed practically constant for more than 10 years at around 4 trillion kWh
  • Some area of the country have experienced brown outs (rationed supply of electricity), primarily during periods of hot weather … suggesting that, during daytime hours, the electricity generation capacity is at capacity.

It is commonly assumed  that there is available nighttime capacity.

  • Over the past 10 years, coal usage as an electricity fuel has been cut in half … replace by natural gas (2/3rds) and renewables (1/3rd).
  • But, 20% of electrical generation (899 B kWh) is still being fueled by coal
  • Nuclear power — about 20% of the fuel mix — has been slowly declining as old plants are being retired … and no new plants being built.

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Bottom line: To meet Biden’s aggressive climate control objectives, electrical generation will need to be increased by almost half … 1 Trillion kWh for EVs and 899 Billion kWh to totally phase out coal.

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