The U.S. used significantly less coal and petroleum in 2009 than in 2008 and significantly more wind power, according to energy flow charts released by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). There also was a decline in natural-gas use and an increase in the use of solar, hydro and geothermal power.
The estimated U.S. energy use in 2009 equaled 94.6 quadrillion BTUs, down from 99.2 quadrillion BTUs in 2008.
Wind power increased dramatically in 2009 to .70 quadrillion BTUs of primary energy, compared to .51 in 2008. Most of that energy is tied directly to electricity generation and thus helps decrease the use of coal for electricity production.
‘The increase in renewables is a really good story, especially in the wind arena,’ says A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst who develops the energy flow charts using data provided by the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration. ‘It's a result of very good incentives and technological advancements. In 2009, the technology got better, and the incentives remained relatively stable. The investments put in place for wind in previous years came online in 2009. Even better, there are more projects in the pipeline for 2010 and beyond.’
The significant decrease in coal used to produce electricity can be attributed to three factors: overall lower electricity demand, a fuel shift to natural gas and an offset created by more wind power production, according to Simon.
Carbon emissions data are expected to be released later this year.