According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), consumption of renewable energy in the U.S. grew for the fifth year in a row in 2020, reaching a record high of 11.6 quadrillion Btu, or 12% of total national energy consumption. Renewable energy was the only source of U.S. energy consumption that increased in 2020 from 2019, as fossil fuel and nuclear consumption declined.

The agency converts sources of energy to Btus to compare different types of energy that are usually measured in units that are not directly comparable, such as gallons of biofuels compared with kWh of wind energy. A fossil fuel equivalence is applied to calculate primary energy consumption of non-combustible renewables, such as wind, hydro, solar and geothermal, which are not burned to generate electricity and therefore do not have an inherent Btu conversion rate.

U.S. renewable energy consumption by source and sector in 2020 in quadrillion Btus. Source: EIAU.S. renewable energy consumption by source and sector in 2020 in quadrillion Btus. Source: EIA

Electricity generated by wind-powered turbines is almost exclusively consumed in the electric power sector. Wind energy accounted for approximately 26% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2020 and surpassed hydroelectricity in 2019 to become the single most-consumed source of renewable energy on an annual basis. In 2020, national wind energy consumption grew 14% from 2019.

Hydroelectric power is also almost exclusively consumed in the electric power sector. It accounted for approximately 22% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2020. Hydropower consumption has remained relatively flat since the 1970s, but it fluctuates with seasonal rainfall and drought conditions.

Wood and waste energy, including wood, wood pellets and biomass waste from landfills, accounted for approximately 22% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2020. Industrial, commercial and electric power facilities use wood and waste as a fuel to generate electricity, produce heat and manufacture goods.

Biofuels, including fuel ethanol, biodiesel and other renewable fuels, accounted for approximately 17% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2020, declining 11% from 2019 as overall transportation sector energy use declined during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Solar energy accounted for approximately 11% of national renewable energy consumption in 2020. Overall, 2020 U.S. solar consumption increased 22% from 2019.

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