Non-Fossil Fuel Generation Continues Growth
According to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), primary energy consumption in the United States was 100.4 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) in 2022, which was a three percent increase from 2021.
The report added that about 21 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2022 came from non-fossil fuel sources such as renewables and nuclear, which was a tie with 2020 as the highest share since the early 1900s.
Fossil fuels (petroleum, natural gas, and coal) accounted for 79 percent of total U.S. energy consumption in 2022.
Of particular interest is the fact that renewable energy consumption in the United States increased from 12.1 quads in 2021 to a record-high 13.2 quads in 2022. “Increased use of renewables for electricity generation, particularly wind and solar energy, largely drove the rise in renewable energy consumption,” said the report. Wind remained the largest source of renewable energy in 2022. Wind actually first surpassed hydroelectricity, the second-largest renewable source, in 2019.
Consumption of nuclear energy totaled 8.0 quads in the United States in 2022, down slightly from 8.1 quads in 2021. The small decrease was driven by the closure of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in May 2022, nine years before its operating license would have expired.
The report also noted that petroleum has been the most-consumed energy source in the United States since surpassing coal in 1950. In 2022, U.S. petroleum consumption remained below its 2005 peak, and, in 2022, it totaled 35.8 quads. “The transportation sector accounted for most of the petroleum-fueled energy consumption,” said the report. “Although the share of electric vehicles on the country’s roads has increased, petroleum remains the dominant fuel source for cars, trucks, and planes.”
U.S. natural gas consumption totaled 33.4 quads in 2022, the most natural gas consumption in the United States on record. The report explained that the growth in U.S. natural gas consumption has largely been driven by increased use of natural gas in the electric power sector, which has consumed more natural gas than any other sector every year for the past five years.
While energy consumption from other forms of generation have either grown or essentially held steady, U.S. consumption of coal fell to 9.8 quads in 2022, which is the second-lowest level in 60 years. “U.S. coal consumption has fallen by more than half since its peak in 2005, said the report. “Reduced coal use in the electric power sector has driven much of this decline.”
The report did not cover consumption from miniscule forms of energy generation in the U.S, such as using water to power grist, lumber, and other milling operations, since, according to the EIA, their use is not well-quantified, “although such mills were a common feature throughout the early history of the United States,” said the report.