On Monday, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California stated in a press release that Americans used less coal and oil-based energy in 2009 than in 2008. Even better, we relied more on renewable energy last year, specifically wind power. This is credited, in part, by the economic downturn. It stands to reason that if you’re having trouble paying your bills, you’ll turn down the heat and turn off the lights.
Stepping away from coal-powered electricity was three-fold: There was a decrease in overall electricity demand, a shift to more natural fuel sources, and wind power usage offset the need for coal-based power. Much like a pendulum swing, an increase in renewable energy use means a decrease in fuel-sourced energy.
“Energy use tends to follow the level of economic activity, and that level declined last year. At the same time, higher efficiency appliances and vehicles reduced energy use even further,” A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst who develops the energy flow charts using data provided by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, was quoted as saying. “As a result, people and businesses are using less energy in general.” The economic incentives to use wind power made it all the better for the average cash-strapped American. The technological advancements, then, were just that lagniappe, or that little something extra, to make the move to green energy that much sweeter.
While not as significant as the coal-based energy versus wind power, there also was a decline in natural gas use and increases in solar, hydro and geothermal power according to the laboratory.
“The increase in renewables is a really good story, especially in the wind arena,” Simon said. “It’s a result of very good incentives and technological advancements. In 2009, the technology got better and the incentives remained relatively stable. The investments put in place for wind in previous years came online in 2009. Even better, there are more projects in the pipeline for 2010 and beyond.”
Simon also pointed out that a side benefit to decreasing fuel-based energy use we reduce our carbon emissions as well. While the detailed information on that will not be released until later this year, Simon suspects the data will reflect an obvious reduction.
So while our reasons for choosing green power was based more on our purse strings than our moral obligation to the planet, it’s still a good start. Every little bit counts and this should be no exception.