Energy flow charts that track the nation's consumption of energy resources, released annually by the Laurence Livermore National Laboratory in California, show Americans used more natural gas, solar panels and wind turbines and less coal to generate electricity in 2012.
Sustained low natural gas prices have prompted a shift from coal to gas in the electricity generating sector, A.J. Simon, an LLNL energy systems analyst, said in a release from the lab Thursday.
The rise in renewables is tied to both prices, with the cost of solar panels and wind turbines going down, and policy, including government incentives to installers of equipment or renewable energy targets in various states, Simon said.
Wind power saw the largest increase in 2012, with new wind farms coming online equipped with bigger, more-efficient turbines developed in response to government-sponsored incentives to invest in renewable energy, he said.
The majority of energy use in 2012 was for electricity generation, followed by transportation, industrial and residential consumption, the lab said.