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.
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)
The Road to Recovery: Which Economies are Reopening?
We look at mobility rates as well as COVID-19 recovery rates for 41 economies, to see which countries are reopening for business.
The Road to Recovery: Which Economies are Reopening?
COVID-19 has brought the world to a halt—but after months of uncertainty, it seems that the situation is slowly taking a turn for the better.
Today’s chart measures the extent to which 41 major economies are reopening, by plotting two metrics for each country: the mobility rate and the COVID-19 recovery rate:
- Mobility Index
This refers to the change in activity around workplaces, subtracting activity around residences, measured as a percentage deviation from the baseline.
- COVID-19 Recovery Rate
The number of recovered cases in a country is measured as the percentage of total cases.
Data for the first measure comes from Google’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Reports, which relies on aggregated, anonymous location history data from individuals. Note that China does not show up in the graphic as the government bans Google services.
COVID-19 recovery rates rely on values from CoronaTracker, using aggregated information from multiple global and governmental databases such as WHO and CDC.
Reopening Economies, One Step at a Time
In general, the higher the mobility rate, the more economic activity this signifies. In most cases, mobility rate also correlates with a higher rate of recovered people in the population.
Here’s how these countries fare based on the above metrics.
|Country||Mobility Rate||Recovery Rate||Total Cases||Total Recovered|
Mobility data as of May 21, 2020 (Latest available). COVID-19 case data as of May 29, 2020.
In the main scatterplot visualization, we’ve taken things a step further, assigning these countries into four distinct quadrants:
1. High Mobility, High Recovery
High recovery rates are resulting in lifted restrictions for countries in this quadrant, and people are steadily returning to work.
New Zealand has earned praise for its early and effective pandemic response, allowing it to curtail the total number of cases. This has resulted in a 98% recovery rate, the highest of all countries. After almost 50 days of lockdown, the government is recommending a flexible four-day work week to boost the economy back up.
2. High Mobility, Low Recovery
Despite low COVID-19 related recoveries, mobility rates of countries in this quadrant remain higher than average. Some countries have loosened lockdown measures, while others did not have strict measures in place to begin with.
Brazil is an interesting case study to consider here. After deferring lockdown decisions to state and local levels, the country is now averaging the highest number of daily cases out of any country. On May 28th, for example, the country had 24,151 new cases and 1,067 new deaths.
3. Low Mobility, High Recovery
Countries in this quadrant are playing it safe, and holding off on reopening their economies until the population has fully recovered.
Italy, the once-epicenter for the crisis in Europe is understandably wary of cases rising back up to critical levels. As a result, it has opted to keep its activity to a minimum to try and boost the 65% recovery rate, even as it slowly emerges from over 10 weeks of lockdown.
4. Low Mobility, Low Recovery
Last but not least, people in these countries are cautiously remaining indoors as their governments continue to work on crisis response.
With a low 0.05% recovery rate, the United Kingdom has no immediate plans to reopen. A two-week lag time in reporting discharged patients from NHS services may also be contributing to this low number. Although new cases are leveling off, the country has the highest coronavirus-caused death toll across Europe.
The U.S. also sits in this quadrant with over 1.7 million cases and counting. Recently, some states have opted to ease restrictions on social and business activity, which could potentially result in case numbers climbing back up.
Over in Sweden, a controversial herd immunity strategy meant that the country continued business as usual amid the rest of Europe’s heightened regulations. Sweden’s COVID-19 recovery rate sits at only 13.9%, and the country’s -93% mobility rate implies that people have been taking their own precautions.
COVID-19’s Impact on the Future
It’s important to note that a “second wave” of new cases could upend plans to reopen economies. As countries reckon with these competing risks of health and economic activity, there is no clear answer around the right path to take.
COVID-19 is a catalyst for an entirely different future, but interestingly, it’s one that has been in the works for a while.
Without being melodramatic, COVID-19 is like the last nail in the coffin of globalization…The 2008-2009 crisis gave globalization a big hit, as did Brexit, as did the U.S.-China trade war, but COVID is taking it to a new level.
—Carmen Reinhart, incoming Chief Economist for the World Bank
Will there be any chance of returning to “normal” as we know it?
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