Changing US energy mix reflects growing use of natural gas, petroleum, renewables

 Wind (31%) and solar generation (5%) expanded significantly in 2015

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, April 2016

Primary energy consumption fell slightly in 2015 as a decline in coal use exceeded increases in natural gas, petroleum, and renewables use, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

In most cases, changes between 2014 and 2015 reflect longer-term trends in energy use.

In 2015, natural gas consumption increased more than any other energy source, accounting for 29 per cent of total primary energy consumption.

As domestic natural gas production continues to reach record levels, prices have remained lowLow prices have led to increased use of natural gas-fired generators in the electric power sector.

Coal supplied 16 per cent of total US primary energy use in 2015, down from 18 per cent in 2014.

Coal consumption declined by more than 12 per cent in 2015, and it is now at its lowest level since 1982.

Nearly all coal is used for electricity generation. In 2015, demand for coal in the power sector reached its lowest level since 1987.

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US petroleum consumption grew in 2015, as lower gasoline and diesel prices led to increased vehicle travel. In addition, exports of US petroleum products continue to grow, driven largely by demand in South and Central America.

Crude oil exports continued to grow significantly in 2014 and averaged 458,000 barrels per day in 2015.

Renewable fuels use continued to grow in 2015, especially in the electric power sector. Both wind and solar generation expanded significantly, growing by 31 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively, in 2015.

Increases in wind and solar were slightly offset by a decline in hydroelectric generation, which fell for the fourth consecutive year because of drought conditions on the West Coast.

Nuclear electric power remained relatively flat in 2015. Several nuclear plants retired in 2013 and 2014, but no nuclear plants either retired or came online in 2015. Nuclear outages were relatively low during the summer of 2015.