A new study released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) shows that renewable energy use in the U.S was up for 2011, while overall energy use was down. The decrease in energy use was partly due to more higher-efficiency energy technologies in the transportation and residential sectors.
Coal use declined across the United States, while the energy flow chart above shows a shift toward natural gas use.
Wind energy saw the biggest jump in renewable energy from .92 quadrillion BTU’s in 2010 to 1.17 quads in 2011.
According to the LLNL website:
“Wind energy jumped significantly because, as in previous years, many new wind farms came online,” said A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst who develops the flow charts using data provided by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration. “This is the result of sustained investment in wind power.”
Another top performer in renewable energy was hydroelectricity, which went from 2.51 quads in 2010 up to 3.17 quads in 2011. Although the researchers note that this is largely because, in 2011, the U.S saw large amounts of precipitation and that allowed the dams to run at full capacity.
Natural gas showed a significant increase from 24.65 quads in 2010 to 26.9 quads in 2011. Which slowed the demand for coal from 2010 to 2011.
“Sustained low natural gas prices have prompted a shift from coal to gas in the electricity generating sector,” Simon said. “Sustained high oil prices have likely driven the decline in oil use over the past 5 years as people choose to drive less and purchase automobiles that get more miles per gallon.”
“With the advent of shale gas, it appears that natural gas prices in the United States may remain lower than their historical averages for many years into the future,” Simon said. “This has prompted many gas users in the industrial and electricity generating sector to switch from coal or oil to natural gas when it is technically possible, but might not have been economical at higher gas prices.”
Overall electricity generation accounted for 39.2 quads, followed by transportation, industrial, commercial, and residential consumption. The biggest declines where felt in the residential, commercial, and transportation sectors, where more energy efficiency and renewable energy was incorporated into the mix.
Source & Image Credit: LLNL