How US energy consumption, efficiency changed in 2016
- The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) at the Department of Energy has released a detailed chart of American energy use in 2016.
- The annual chart shows that two-thirds of the potential energy from all of America’s energy sources ended up being wasted in 2016. Renewable energy is increasing, but petroleum is still the most popular energy source. (The graphic is shown in BTUs, or British Thermal Unit, a unit of measurement for energy. 3,400 BTUs is equivalent to about 1 kilowatt-hour. A "quad" is one quadrillion, or a thousand trillion, BTUs.)
- Overall energy consumption was up 0.1 quads between 2015 and 2016. Solar increased 0.15 quads, or 38%. Wind was up 0.33 quads, or 19%. Petroleum was up 0.4 quads, but that represented less than a 2% increase because the market share was already so high.
Vox noted, by examining a LLNL chart from the 1970s, that the U.S. economy is trending less efficient, a fact that can be blamed largely on the explosion of systems like automobiles and electricity, two particularly inefficient systems.
The wasted energy, according to LLNL, mostly consists of waste heat, such as exhaust from automobiles and furnaces. The efficiency of everyday objects, like cars, buildings and light bulbs, determines how much waste heat is produced.
Despite the negative trend of diminished efficiency, the increase in renewable energy sources last year was a bright spot in the LLNL report. Renewable power source installation reached a record high of 138.5 gigawatts of capacity added globally in 2016, according to a report by UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
As more cities turn to renewable energy sources, experts are calling for greater investment in developing large-scale storage technology for solar and wind power that would support mainstream adoption.