Nuclear Energy Grew Fastest But Renewables Have a Good Start

By Editors

The Oil Drum has compiled a graph showing how long it took each new form of energy to expand to providing 10 exajoules in the historical record. Nuclear power (the blue line) expanded by far the fastest, reaching 10 xj in the first twelve years. This would be the period from 1957 to 1969. It continued to expand rapidly after that for 25 years but has since slowed markedly. Oil made it within 33 years, starting slowly for the first 12 years - before the invention of the automobile - and then taking off. Natural gas (green) reached the goal in 38 years after the development of pipelines in the 1920s. Coal (purple) took a slow, steady increase, reaching 10 xj in 53 years in the 19th century. Hydroelectricity took a slower path than all the others, climbing steadily but not reaching 10 xj until almost 60 years after the first dams were built in the late 19th century.

Solar, wind and geothermal are represented by the short gold line in the lower left-hand quadrant. They have reached 2 xj in the first five years of existence. (Although all have been around since the 1970s, concentrated growth only began around the turn of the century.) So far the renewables' path is steeper than any other energy source except nuclear. Whether it can stay on this rapid trajectory only the future will tell.

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