Americans used about 645 billion kW-hr of electricity, or about 2.2 quadrillion BTU (or 2.2 quads) less energy in 2012 than they did in 2011, according to Livermore National Laboratory’s annual U.S. energy report. Total power consumption went from 39.2 to 38.1 quads.
Some of the reduction was due to nuclear power going from 8.26 to 8.05 quads between 2011-12. This was the first drop in nuclear power in a decade and is attributed to four nuclear plants recently taken offline: two in San Onofre, California, one in Kewaunee, Wisconsin, and another in Crystal River, Florida.
Solar and wind energy benefitted from falling prices for hardware and preferable U.S. tax and loan incentives. Solar generated 0.235 quads, an increase from 0.158 in 2011. Wind power had the greatest increase, going from 1.17 to 1.36 quads. Lab analysts believe this is due to wind farms using bigger, more efficient turbines.
Natural gas, a thriving alternative to coal, is up from 24.9 to 26 quads. Coal, which is more expensive, and produces more greenhouse gasses, generated 17.4 quads, a drop from 2011’s 19.7 quads. Oil is also down, going from 35.3 to 34.7 quads, which was mainly used for transportation and some industrial applications.