The US consumed a record amount of renewable energy in 2020 – Today in Energy

June 16, 2021

In 2020, renewable energy consumption in the United States rose for the fifth year in a row, hitting a record high of 11.6 trillion British thermal units (BTU), or 12% of total US energy consumption. Renewable energies were the only source of US energy consumption that increased in 2020 from 2019; The consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power decreased. Our US Renewable Energy Consumption Chart by Source by Sector shows how much renewable energy is consuming each sector by source.

We convert energy sources into common thermal units called British Thermal Units (Btu) to compare different types of energy that are normally not measured in directly comparable units, such as gallons of biofuels versus kilowatt hours of wind energy.

We use a fossil fuel equivalence to calculate the primary energy consumption of non-combustible renewable energies (wind, water, sun and geothermal energy) that are not burned to produce electricity and therefore have no inherent Btu conversion rate. In this approach, we are converting the non-combustible renewables from kilowatt-hours to BTU by using the annual weighted average BTU conversion rate for all fossil fuels burned to generate electricity in the United States that year to get the amount of fossil energy appreciate that will be replaced by these renewable sources.

We use the fossil equivalence approach to record the contribution of non-combustible renewable energies to the total primary energy, also because the resulting proportions of primary energy are closer to the proportions of generated electricity. This calculation also shows the energy that would have been consumed if the electricity from renewable sources had been generated by a mix of fossil fuels instead.

Renewable Energy Consumption in the United States

wind Energy or electricity from wind turbines is almost exclusively consumed in the electricity sector. Wind power accounted for approximately 26% of US renewable energy consumption in 2020. Wind overtook hydropower in 2019 and became the most consumed source of renewable energy annually. In 2020, US wind energy consumption increased 14% from 2019.

Hydropower, or electricity generated by water-powered turbines, is used almost exclusively in the electricity sector. They accounted for about 22% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2020. US hydropower consumption has remained relatively constant since the 1970s, but fluctuates depending on seasonal rainfall and drought conditions.

Wood and waste energy, including wood, wood pellets, and biomass waste from landfills, represented approximately 22% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2020. Industrial, commercial, and electrical power plants use wood and waste as fuel for generating electricity, generating heat, and manufacturing goods.

Biofuels, including fuel ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable fuels, represented approximately 17% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2020. U.S. biofuel use declined 11% from 2019 as the energy use of the entire transportation sector in the United States declined during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Solar Energy accounted for approximately 11% of US renewable energy consumption in 2020. Solar cells (PV) including roof panels and solar thermal power plants use sunlight to generate electricity. Some residential and commercial buildings use solar systems to heat water and buildings. Overall, solar consumption in the US increased 22% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Main contributor: Mickey Francis

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