Energy Use Down, But Biofuels, Wind, Solar & Hydro Up

John Davis

A new report from the feds says, due to the recession, overall energy consumption in the U.S. dropped in 2009. However, renewable energy … biodiesel, ethanol, wind, solar and hydro power … use during that same period actually increased.

This report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration
shows that overall energy consumption in 2009 dropped by 4.8 percent, the second year in a row that consumption dropped and just the third time since 1949 that energy consumption has declined for two or more consecutive years. But clean energy sources fared much better during that same time:

Consumption of all major fuels declined between 2008 and 2009, except for renewables. Coal dropped the most, falling 12 percent, while petroleum consumption fell nearly 5 percent, and natural gas consumption fell 2 percent. Even nuclear fuel consumption fell by nearly 1 percent…

Against this backdrop, it is noteworthy that renewable energy consumption increased by 5.4 percent in 2009 to 7.8 quadrillion Btus (Figure 1.2). This follows a 9.6-percent increase between 2007 and 2008. These two increases, coupled with the consecutive year decreases in total energy consumption, boosted renewable energy’s share of total consumption from 6.6 percent in 2007 to 8.2 percent in 2009. This is renewable energy’s greatest share of the U.S. energy pie since 1984 when there were near record levels of hydropower.

Wind energy grew 32 percent and has more than doubled since 2007, standing at 0.7 quadrillion Btus in 2009. While the gain in 2009 was strong, capacity additions and output might have been greater still except for the collapse of natural gas prices, which made lower capital cost natural gas-fired capacity more attractive than wind. Solar energy followed a pattern similar to that of wind energy for similar reasons. Consumption in 2009 jumped by 10 percent from 2008, about 60 percent of the rate of increase for the prior year. Biomass also grew just 1 percent between 2008 and 2009, when there was a 14 percent gain in biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) consumption and an 8 percent decrease n wood and derived fuels consumption.

Hydropower consumption grew 6.3 percent in 2009…

The report goes on to say that wind went from a “relatively minor renewable energy source” to making up nearly 10 percent of total renewable energy consumption. In addition, biodiesel and ethanol got good boosts from various financial incentives and mandates.

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