Energy consumption in the United States set a record high in 2018. Overall, energy consumption reached 101.2 quadrillion BTUs or quads last year, breaking the previous record of 101.0 set in 2007. Most of us are not too familiar with quadrillions of anything, nor with BTUs for that matter. If it is any more illuminating, 101 quads are the equivalent of about 300 billion kilowatt hours. Our energy use increased by 3.6% from 2017, which was the largest annual increase since 2010.
Wind, solar, and natural gas provided the largest increases in energy supply. In 2018, solar and wind energy were both up by 0.18 quads, representing a 22% gain for solar and a 7.5% increase for wind. Over the past ten years, overall renewable energy has doubled in the U.S., with wind increasing by a factor of 5 since 2008 and solar by an amazing factor of 48.
Natural gas generation increased by 10.7%, or a total of 3 quads over the previous year. The growth in natural gas use isn’t good news, but since much of it represents replacing coal, it at least corresponds to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
The unfortunate part of our energy consumption is that the majority of it is still in the form of “rejected energy”. It most often takes the form of waste heat, such as the warm exhaust from automobiles and furnaces. The efficiency of our cars, lightbulbs and factories determines how much waste heat is produced and in turn how much fuel and electricity can be put to productive use.
Photo, posted April 27, 2015, courtesy of Mathias Appel via Flickr.