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Renewables were the only energy source whose consumption in the United States roses in 2020 amid a record 7-percent decline in overall energy consumption, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Friday.
Total U.S. energy consumption last year fell to just 93 quadrillion British thermal units—the largest decrease on record—both in absolute terms and percentage terms, and can mostly be attributed to the toll that the pandemic took on the United States last year. This brings U.S. energy consumption in 2020 to absolute levels not seen in decades. The next largest decrease in U.S. energy consumption was between 2008 and 2009, when U.S. energy consumption fell 5 percent during the economic recession, according to the EIA.
Last year, consumption of renewables rose by 2 percent compared to 2019, EIA’s latest estimates showed on Friday.
At the same time, petroleum consumption fell by 13 percent, consumption of natural gas declined by 2 percent, coal consumption plunged by 19 percent, and nuclear electric power dropped by 2 percent.
In the transportation sector, which typically accounts for around 70 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption, oil consumption slumped by 16 percent from 2019 levels.
The rising share of renewables in the electricity mix had started to break records even before the pandemic, which decimated demand for petroleum-based fuels in 2020.
Despite market uncertainty and construction delays in the pandemic, U.S. renewable power capacity installations surged to a record in 2020.
Renewables—mostly solar and wind—are set to account for more than two-thirds of the new electricity generation capacity that the United States will install in 2021, EIA said in a forecast early this year.
A total of 39.7 gigawatts (GW) of new electricity generating capacity is expected to start commercial operation in 2021, with solar photovoltaics (PV) accounting for 39 percent of the new capacity. Wind power generation capacity will represent 31 percent of the newly installed U.S. electricity generating capacity this year, followed at a distant third by natural gas with 16 percent of new generation.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.