A look back on the year 2015 shows how Americans have used less energy overall than prior years, yet the popularity of renewable power continues to grow. It may only be a matter of time before the scales tip far enough that our dependence on coal, oil, and natural gas will become a thing of the past.
Each year the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory releases energy flow charts which reflect the previous year’s energy use and consumption. Measured in British Thermal Units, or quads, the US saw a .8 quadrillion drop in quads from the previous year. (One kilowatt-hour is about 3,400 quads). Most energy was used for electricity generation, which is going through quite a change in composition.
Coal use dropped 12 percent while natural gas use went up 3 percent; however, residential natural gas use decreased .5 percent due to the mild winter. Renewable energy makes up for the slack with wind energy increasing by 5 percent, geothermal energy by 11 percent, and solar power by 11 percent. The falling prices of photovoltaic panels and boom in utility scale solar projects is partially responsible for the changing tide. The results also show that petroleum use by residential and commercial sectors has risen 2 percent, yet the hope instilled by other energy sources can inspire us enough to make it through to next year.