US energy mix changes - coal consumption declines

By Jodi Delapaz

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WASHINGTON, July 28, 2016 - Primary energy consumption fell slightly in 2015 as a decline in coal use exceeded increases in natural gas, petroleum and renewables use, says a report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA). In most cases, changes between 2014 and 2015 reflect longer-term trends in energy use, says EIA.

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Coal consumption declined by more than 12 percent in 2015, says EIA, and it is now at its lowest level since 1982. Coal supplied 16 percent of total U.S. primary energy use in 2015, down from 18 percent in 2014, the report shows. Nearly all coal is used for electricity generation.

As domestic natural gas production continues to reach record levels, natural gas prices have remained low and natural gas consumption increased more than any other energy source in 2015, says EIA, accounting for 29 percent of total primary energy consumption. EIA says the low natural gas prices have led to increased use of natural gas-fired generators in the electric power sector.

Lower gasoline and diesel prices led to increased vehicle travel. U.S. petroleum consumption grew by 2 percent in 2015, EIA says. Exports of U.S. petroleum products also continued to grow, driven largely by demand in South and Central America, the report says. Exports were up 467,000 barrels per day from 2014, to 4.3 million barrels per day.

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Renewable fuels use continued to grow in 2015, the report shows, especially in the electric power sector. Both wind and solar generation expanded significantly, says EIA, growing by 31 percent and 5 percent, 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.

Several nuclear plants were retired in 2013 and 2014. Nuclear electric power remained relatively flat in 2015, the EIA report shows. No nuclear plants were retired or came online in 2015, EIA says. 

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