Energy Blog

Energy Blog

US Chamber of Commerce Blog

Thomas J. Donohue Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue greets Ulrich Grillo, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI). Photo credit: Christian Kruppa

I recently returned from a trip to Germany where the Chamber took part in the 2016 Hannover Messe, the world’s largest industrial technology fair, and later met with the business community in Munich. The United States was this year’s “Partner Country,” and President Barack Obama was the first sitting U.S. president to attend the fair in its seven-decade history. The U.S. delegation also included Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, among others. 

I participated in the Hannover Messe in 2014 as a keynote speaker.  Following that trip the Chamber worked hard to convince the administration of the value for the United States to partner with Germany on the Messe this year, as such a partnership would offer U.S. officials – and the Chamber – with an ideal venue to promote the transatlantic relationship and the positive outcomes of expanded trade. We’re pleased that such efforts came to fruition.

Our objective was to demonstrate the Chamber’s enduring commitment to a robust transatlantic relationship at a time when bilateral tensions persist and the global security and geopolitical situation appear increasingly tenuous. My op-ed “Renewing the Transatlantic Alliance” speaks to the three issues on which I focused during the visit:

The imperative of securing a robust Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), with the understanding that getting the agreement’s substance right is more important than concluding the negotiations within any particular timeframe. The vital importance of uninterrupted cross-border data flows for U.S. and European businesses of every size and sector. A pro-growth European energy strategy that promotes responsible development of Europe’s own resources, enhances the continent’s diversity of supply, and emphasizes efficiency.

After the opening ceremony, I joined two dozen CEOs at a dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Obama. We had an in-depth and thought-provoking conversation on a range of topics, including the need to stimulate economic growth via investments in digital and physical infrastructure; the world’s energy challenges; the role of the private sector in addressing the migration crisis; and, of course, TTIP.  I also had the chance to catch up with executives of a half dozen American Chambers of Commerce in Europe. As you can imagine, TTIP and the need to promote growth on both sides of the Atlantic were topics of significant discussion.

The Chamber and the Federation of German Industries (BDI) also organized a bilateral business summit on “The Future of Transatlantic Relations.”

During the summit, BDI President Ulrich Grillo and I presented a joint TTIP declaration to the participating U.S. and European officials. The message was straightforward: We seek a substantive and commercially meaningful accord, and the substance of the agreement matters more than its timing.

Public worries about trade and globalization were much discussed in Hannover and Munich, including the need to improve government programs to assist workers displaced by technological change, trade, or other factors — and to coordinate these programs more effectively with the business community.

The trip was a strong reminder that America has no partner in the world like Europe. Our shared values and shared interests are without peer. The Chamber is committed to keeping this unique alliance for prosperity and security strong.

Sean Hackbarth Power transmission lines are suspended from an electricity pylon in Clifton, New Jersey.Photo credit: Steve Hockstein/Bloomberg.

Everyone love lists. We’re fascinated discovering what are the biggest, the fastest, the most-popular, the greatest.

In 2015 Forbes contributor James Conca put together a list of the biggest power plants in the United States. Instead of listing the plants that could produce the most electricity, he gathered a list of the plants that did produce the most electricity.

I haven’t seen him update the list, so I went ahead on my own using Energy Information Administration 2015 data. It shows how important nuclear and fossil fuels are to producing the baseload power that keeps the lights on and keeps our economy moving.

Some observations:

First, eight of the top ten power plants are nuclear. Nuclear plants dominate the list because they run almost 24/7 over long periods of time. As Conca noted nuclear power plants have high average capacity factors (90%) and get closer to their full generating capacity than other types of power plants. Compare nuclear power to more-intermittent, less-reliable renewable electricity sources like hydropower (40%), wind (30%), solar thermal (24%), and solar photovoltaic (20%). Because of nuclear's importance, the federal government must fulfill its legal responsibility by building a permanent nuclear waste storage facility at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.

Second, the largest power plant in the United States, and the seventh largest in the world—Grand Coulee Damn—didn’t generate the most electricity in 2015. This could be due to factors like the amount of rainfall in the Pacific Northwest last year. It shows that being the biggest doesn’t mean you generate the most. It’s more important to run at a consistently high capacity for long periods of time.

Third, two fossil fuel power plants made the list. Despite this, don’t underestimate coal and natural gas’ importance to the power grid. According to the Energy Information Administration, in 2015, coal fueled about one-third of all our electricity. (Nuclear generates about one-fifth.) It’s unwise for the federal government to be attacking this critical energy source with regulations like EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

As for natural gas, its share of electricity production was also about one-third in 2015. An advantage of natural gas plants is an abundance of cheap fuel—thanks, fracking. But on the flip-side, these power plants need pipelines to get that fuel. Regulators and anti-fossil fuel activists are blocking needed pipelines and energy infrastructure to turn cheap fuel into electricity.

Fourth, could wind or solar power ever make this list? Anything is possible, but wind and solar have to scale a lot. The Alta Wind Energy Center in California, the largest onshore wind farm in the United States, generates 2,600 GWh of electricity. The output of the 3,200 acre facility would have to multiply by seven to make it on the list. The mountain for solar is steeper. The world's largest solar thermal power station, California's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, stretching over 3,500 acres, is expected to generate 940 GWh of electricity annually. To make the list, it would need to increase electricity generation by 1900%.

Renewable power has a place in America’s diverse energy mix—see the Grand Coulee Dam--but as this list shows, wind and solar aren’t capable of replacing the big nuclear and fossil fuel power plants that make up the backbone of our power grid.

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Does America need an "All of the Above" energy strategy? Find out here. This Chamber Explainer will get you up to speed.


Below is the list of the top ten producing power plants in the United States.

1. Palo Verde Nuclear Station

State: Arizona
Fuel source: Nuclear
Electricity generated in 2015: 32,525,595 mWhs

palo_verde_site_aerial_photo_02-22-13.jpg Palo Verde Nuclear Generating StationPalo Verde Nuclear Generating StationPalo Verde Nuclear Generating Station. Photo credit: Arizona Public Service.
  2. Browns Ferry Nuclear Station

State: Alabama
Fuel source: Nuclear
Electricity generated in 2015: 27,669,694 mWhs

wikimediacommons_browns_ferry.jpg Browns Ferry Nuclear Station in AlabamaBrowns Ferry Nuclear Station in AlabamaBrowns Ferry Nuclear Station.
  3. Oconee Nuclear Generating Station

State: South Carolina
Fuel source: Nuclear
Electricity generated in 2015: 21,939,740 mWhs

oconee-aerial-2010_duke_energy.jpg Oconee Nuclear Generating StationOconee Nuclear Generating StationOconee Nuclear Generating Station. Photo credit: Duke Energy.
  4. West County Energy Center

State: Florida
Fuel source: Natural gas
Electricity generated in 2015: 20,428,360 mWhs

west-county_fpl.jpg West County Energy Center in FloridaWest County Energy Center in FloridaWest County Energy Center. Photo credit: FPL.
  5. Braidwood Nuclear Station

State: Illinois
Fuel source: Nuclear
Electricity generated in 2015: 19,740,011 mWhs

bloomberg_braidwood_il_nuclear.jpg Braidwood Nuclear Station in Illinois.Braidwood Nuclear Station in Illinois.Braidwood Nuclear Station. Photo credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg.
  6. Byron Nuclear Generating Station

State: Illinois
Fuel source: Nuclear
Electricity generated in 2015: 19,478,139 mWhs

wikimediacommons_byron_nuclear_power_plant_il.jpg Byron Nuclear Generating Station in IllinoisByron Nuclear Generating Station in IllinoisByron Nuclear Generating Station. Photo credit: Ben Jacobson. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license.
  7. South Texas Project Nuclear Station

State: Texas
Fuel source: Nuclear
Electricity generated in 2015: 19,400,553 mWhs

bloomberg_southtexasprojectnuclear.jpg South Texas Project Nuclear StationSouth Texas Project Nuclear StationSouth Texas Project Nuclear Station. Photo credit: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg.
  8. Limerick Nuclear Generating Station

State: Pennsylvania
Fuel source: Nuclear
Electricity generated in 2015: 18,904,377 mWhs

bloomberg_limerick_nuclear.jpg Limerick Nuclear Power Station in PennsylvaniaLimerick Nuclear Power Station in PennsylvaniaLimerick Nuclear Power Station. Photo credit: Bradley C. Bower/Bloomberg.
  9. Grand Coulee Hydroelectric Station

State: Washington
Fuel source: Hydroelectric
Electricity generated in 2015: 18,838,602 mWhs

wikimediacommons_grand_coulee_dam_in_the_evening.jpg Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State.Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State.Grand Coulee Dam. Photo credit: Steven Pavlov. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
  10. James H. Miller, Jr. Electrical Generating Plant

State: Alabama
Fuel source: Coal
Electricity generated in 2015: 17,815,891 mWhs

Alabama Power's Plant Miller How Electricity Is Generated 3D Animated Tour
Steve Case A Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone, and an Apple iPhone 5c.Photo credit: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

To the 45th President of the United States

From: Steve Case

Dear 45,

Welcome [back] to Washington! As you move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and go to work on your agenda, I want to remind you that 250 years ago America itself was a startup. It was just an idea. And now we’re the leader of the free world ― in large part because we have the leading economy.

dear45-logo.jpg Dear 45 logo That didn’t happen by accident. It was entrepreneurs who led the way in the agricultural revolution. It was entrepreneurs who led the industrial revolution. More recently, entrepreneurs led the technology revolution. That’s why we are home to the largest, most innovative economy in the world.

Today, we’re at the dawn of a new economic order ― what I call the Internet's Third Wave. I’m convinced that people don’t realize how fast the tectonic plates of our economy are about to shift. Because of significant advances in technology and the ubiquity of the “Internet Of Everything," entrepreneurs now have the tools to transform major sectors of the economy and in the process change the way we live our lives. That means innovating in health, education, financial services, energy, transportation and food. It means that some of America’s oldest corporations may get toppled. And it means changing how we think about work itself, as more people opt (or need) to embrace flexible schedules possible in the freelance economy. 

In order to create the conditions for companies, workers and the country to continue to lead in this Third Wave, we need to adopt a new playbook. For the next president, that means fixing our broken immigration system so we win the battle to attract and retain talented innovators from across the globe; reforming securities laws to increase access to capital so everyone has the opportunity to put their idea into practice; and modernizing the social safety net to reflect the “uberization” of more jobs. And it means we need to have an open, constructive dialogue between government and innovators so we balance the need to enable companies to grow while putting in common-sense regulations that reflect this new economic order. 


The First Wave was about building the Internet itself ― and government played a key role. Companies like AOL, Cisco and AT&T helped to lay the foundation for the online world. The Second Wave was about building apps and mobile capabilities on top of the Internet ― companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Waze led the way. I’m optimistic about the future of our country and the future of entrepreneurship as we enter the Third Wave ― especially if we make important decisions today that ensure a strong startup culture in the years ahead.

I’m looking forward to working with you on these important issues.


Steve Case
Chairman of Revolution and The Case Foundation