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Chart: The Rate of Change in U.S. Energy Consumption

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Chart: The Rate of Change in U.S. Energy Consumption

Chart: The Rate of Change in U.S. Energy Consumption

This chart shows the winners and losers in energy sources used

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Weeks ago, we published a flow chart that showed all U.S. energy consumption from 2015 in one giant diagram.

This is a great tool for understanding a static picture of U.S. energy consumption – it breaks down the energy sources, as well as the details about where the energy ultimately flows. It also shows that a large amount of energy potential, about 61%, is inevitably “wasted” due to the laws of physics as well as inefficient processes.

However, because it is a static view of one year, it ends up doing a poor job of encapsulating how the energy sector is shifting. This week’s chart shows the changing landscape for different energy sources in the United States.

Examining the Shift in U.S. Energy Consumption

As a starting point, based on the aforementioned diagram of energy usage, let’s look at the composition of the energy mix:

  • Oil: 36%
  • Natural gas: 29%
  • Coal: 16%
  • Renewables: 10%
  • Nuclear: 9%

Now, let’s look at the rate of change of these broad categories between 2014 and 2015 according to the EIA:

  • Oil: +2%
  • Natural gas: +3%
  • Coal: -12%
  • Renewables: +1%
  • Nuclear: 0%

On a macro level, the first obvious note is that coal consumption dropped rapidly in 2015. This, along with other factors, is why many people are declaring that coal is dead.

Another interesting observation is that renewables only increased by 1% in consumption. This seems strange, considering that there is such hype around things like the Tesla Gigafactory and the surging demand for lithium-ion batteries. Diving a bit deeper will provide an explanation for this.

Renewable Energy

There are five main components that make up U.S. renewable energy: solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biomass.

The biggest sub-sector is biomass, which made up about 43% of all renewable usage in the United States in 2015. Hydro is also significant, as it is 27% of the renewable total. However, as you will see, consumption in biomass and hydro dropped between 2014 and 2015:

  • Biomass: -5%
  • Hydro: -4%
  • Wind: +5%
  • Solar: +31%
  • Geothermal: +4%

Even though the biomass and hydro consumption dropped, the future of renewables is in good hands. In particular, it has been the miraculous change in the price per watt of solar energy that has changed the landscape. Solar energy consumption, even though it is a relatively small number compared to other energy sources, increased by 31% in 2015.

As a final point, here is the data and projections going out to 2017 for the main renewable sources, according to the EIA. Note that solar’s CAGR (compound annual growth rate) is 39% between 2013 and the projected 2017 number.

Renewable energy consumption (Quadrillion Btu, 2015)

2013201420152016e2017eCAGR (2013-2017)
Solar0.310.420.550.660.8239%
Geothermal0.210.210.220.230.233%
Wind1.601.731.812.082.2612%
Hydro2.562.472.392.572.52-1%
Biomass3.763.933.773.743.750%
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Energy

Visualized: Renewable Energy Capacity Through Time (2000–2023)

This streamgraph shows the growth in renewable energy capacity by country and region since 2000.

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The preview image for a streamgraph showing the change in renewable energy capacity over time by country and region.

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The following content is sponsored by National Public Utilities Council

Visualized: Renewable Energy Capacity Through Time (2000–2023)

Global renewable energy capacity has grown by 415% since 2000, or at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.4%.

However, many large and wealthy regions, including the United States and Europe, maintain lower average annual renewable capacity growth.

This chart, created in partnership with the National Public Utilities Council, shows how each world region has contributed to the growth in renewable energy capacity since 2000, using the latest data release from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

Renewable Energy Trends in Developed Economies

Between 2000 and 2023, global renewable capacity increased from 0.8 to 3.9 TW. This was led by China, which added 1.4 TW, more than Africa, Europe, and North America combined. Renewable energy here includes solar, wind, hydro (excluding pumped storage), bioenergy, geothermal, and marine energy.

During this period, capacity growth in the U.S. has been slightly faster than what’s been seen in Europe, but much slower than in China. However, U.S. renewable growth is expected to accelerate due to the recent implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Overall, Asia has shown the greatest regional growth, with China being the standout country in the continent.

Region2000–2023 Growth10-Year Growth (2013–2023)1-Year Growth (2022–2023)
Europe313%88%10%
China1,817%304%26%
United States322%126%9%
Canada57%25%2%

It’s worth noting that Canada has fared significantly worse than the rest of the developed world since 2000 when it comes to renewable capacity additions. Between 2000 and 2023, the country’s renewable capacity grew only by 57%.  

Trends in Developing Economies

Africa’s renewable capacity has grown by 184% since 2000 with a CAGR of 4%. 

India is now the most populous country on the planet, and its renewable capacity is also rapidly growing. From 2000–2023, it grew by 604%, or a CAGR of 8%.

It is worth remembering that energy capacity is not always equivalent to power generation. This is especially the case for intermittent sources of energy, such as solar and wind, which depend on natural phenomena.

Despite the widespread growth of renewable energy worldwide, IRENA emphasizes that global renewable generation capacity must triple from its 2023 levels by 2030 to meet the ambitious targets set by the Paris Agreement.

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