Primary energy consumption in the United States rose 4% to a record high of 101.3 quadrillion British thermal units in 2018, from 2017, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The 2018 consumption level was 0.3% above the previous record set in 2007 and was the largest increase in energy consumption, in absolute and percentage terms, since 2010.
Consumption of fossil fuels, including petroleum, natural gas and coal, rose 4% in 2018 and accounted for 80% of total energy consumption in the United States. Natural gas consumption rose 10% in 2018 and reached a record high. This increase, along with the smaller increases in the consumption of petroleum fuels, renewable energy and nuclear electric power, more than offset a 4% decrease in coal consumption.
U.S. petroleum consumption rose by almost 500,000 barrels per day to 20.5 million barrels per day, or 37 quadrillion British thermal units, in 2018, from 2017, and was the highest level since 2007. The increased use in the industrial sector contributed to the growth, and consumption in the sector increased by about 200,000 barrels per day in 2018. Consumption in the transportation sector rose by about 140,000 barrels per day in 2018 because of increased demand for fuels, including petroleum diesel and jet fuel.
Natural gas consumption in the United States rose to a high of 83.1 billion cubic feet per day, or 31 quadrillion British thermal units, in 2018. The weather contributed to the increasing use of natural gas across all sectors in 2018 as demand rose for space heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. Natural gas consumption in the electric power sector rose 15% to 29.1 billion cubic feet per day, from 2017. Natural gas consumption in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors increased 13%, 10% and 4%, respectively, from 2017.
U.S. coal consumption decreased to 688 million short tons, or 13 quadrillion British thermal units, in 2018, the fifth consecutive year of decline. Nearly all the decline could be attributed to the electric power sector, which decreased by 4% in 2018. Coal-fired power plants have been replaced by newer, more efficient natural gas and renewable power generation sources. In 2018, 12.9 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity were retired, while 14.6 gigawatts of net natural gas-fired capacity were added.
Renewable energy consumption in the United States rose 3% to a record high of 11.5 quadrillion British thermal units in 2018, from 2017. The consumption rose as a result of the addition of new wind and solar power plants. Wind electricity consumption increased by 8%, and solar consumption rose by 22%. Biomass consumption, primarily in the form of transportation fuels such as fuel ethanol and biodiesel, accounted for 45% of all renewable consumption in 2018, up 1% from 2017 levels. Increases in wind, solar and biomass consumption were partially offset by a 3% decline in hydroelectricity consumption.
U.S. nuclear consumption rose less than 1% in 2018 but still set a record for electricity generation. Total operable nuclear-generating units declined to 98 as of September 2018, and annual average nuclear capacity factors, which reflect power plant use, increased 40 basis points to 92.6% in 2018, from 2017.