In 2020, the United States recorded a record level of energy consumption, when it comes to renewables like wind and solar power. In a way, that’s not surprising. Renewable energy usage has been growing steadily in the US for the last five years, with more and more people and businesses choosing it as an option. Some are moving to completely renewable options, while others are choosing to increase their renewable energy usage to help offset some of their fossil fuel usage, instead.
With the increase in renewable energy consumption, the US moved to a usage of 11.6 quadrillion BTU, which made up 12% of the total consumption of energy in the country. As of 2020, renewable options were also the only ones increasing, with fossil fuel energy sources on the decline. Nuclear energy consumption also declined during the time period from 2019 to 2020.
Wind energy is consumed nearly exclusively by the electric power sector, as opposed to being used by other sectors. That’s power that’s generated by wind-powered turbines, and adds up to around 26% of the consumable renewable energy usage in the United States in 2020. Consumption of wind energy has grown 14% since 2019, and surpassed hydroelectricity (water power) consumption for the first time.
Hydroelectric power, though, is still a very popular option. It made up approximately 22% of US renewable energy consumption, and was used almost exclusively in the electric power sector, just like wind energy. Since the 1970s, the use of this kind of power has remained relatively flat, and hasn’t seen much growth. That’s largely because water-powered turbines can be affected by the level of drought the United States is experiencing at any given time. That can mean that it’s not always a fully reliable source of energy.
Wood and waste energy are also renewable, and they made up 22% of renewable energy consumption in the US in 2020. Electric power facilities use these energy options, as do commercial and industrial facilities. Wood, waste, and biomass energy options are most commonly used to produce heat for facilities, generate electricity, and also operate equipment for the manufacturing of goods.
There are renewable fuels being consumed in greater amounts than in the past, as well. Biodiesel, ethanol, and others make up around 17% of the energy consumption in the US where renewables are concerned. The use of biofuel fell 11% in 2020 when compared with 2019, though, because the transportation sector was hit so hard by the pandemic. Far less travel and transport of goods meant a lowered demand for biofuel options.
While just 11% of renewable energy consumption, solar energy usage increased 22% between 2019 and 2020. Using rooftop and yard-based panels to generate electricity, and solar heating systems to heat water and buildings, both became more common. Although renewable energy options are still small parts of the overall United States energy consumption, it appears that these options will continue to grow and expand, well into the future.