Use of Renewables Continues to Grow

A leaf growing inside a lightbulb
Published On
Oct 21, 2020

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), consumption of renewable energy in the United States grew for the fourth year in a row, reaching a record 11.5 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs), which represents 11% of total U.S. energy consumption.

The report identified six types of renewable energy sources: wind, solar, hydropower, wood and waste, biofuels and geothermal. It also identified the four sectors that use these renewable sources: electric power (utilities), commercial and transportation, industrial and residential.

“Wind energy in the United States is almost exclusively used by wind-powered turbines to generate electricity in the electric power sector, and it accounted for 24% of the U.S. renewable consumption in 2019,” said the report. “Wind surpassed hydroelectric to become the most-consumed source of renewable energy on an annual basis in 2019.”

According to the report, wind, which, as noted earlier, accounted for almost 25% of U.S. renewable consumption in 2019, is used almost exclusively (virtually 100%) by the electric power (utilities) sector. Only a very small amount is used by the residential and commercial sector, and another small amount is used by the industrial sector.

In regard to solar, 62% of the solar generated in the United States last year was used by the electric power (utilities) sector, 35% was used by the residential and commercial sector and 3% was used by the industrial sector.

“Solar energy, consumed to generate electricity or directly as heat, accounted for about 9% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019 and had the largest percentage growth among renewable sources in 2019,” the report said. “Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, including rooftop panels, and solar thermal power plants use sunlight to generate electricity. Some residential and commercial buildings heat with solar heating systems.”

Of the consumption of renewable energy by the electric power (utilities) sector in 2019, 42% came from wind, 38% came from hydroelectric, 10% came from solar, 7% came from wood and waste and 2% came from geothermal.

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