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Forms of energy

Sources of energy

We use many different energy sources to do work. Energy sources are called renewable or nonrenewable. Renewable and nonrenewable energy can be used as primary energy sources and converted into secondary energy sources such as electricity and hydrogen.

Nonrenewable energy sources

In the United States, nonrenewable energy sources supply most of the energy we use. Nonrenewable energy sources include coal, natural gas, petroleum made from crude oil and natural gas liquids, and uranium. These energy sources are called nonrenewable because their supplies are limited and take a very long time to form. Coal, crude oil, and natural gas formed from the remains of plants buried underground millions of years ago.

Renewable energy sources

Renewable energy sources include biomass, geothermal energy, hydropower, solar energy, and wind energy. They are called renewable because they are naturally replenished in a short period of time. Day after day, the sun shines, the wind blows, and rivers flow.

How are secondary sources of energy different than primary energy sources?

Electricity and hydrogen are different than other energy sources because they are secondary sources of energy. Primary energy sources must be used to make secondary sources of energy such as electricity and hydrogen.

The chart below shows U.S. energy consumption by source of energy in 2022.

U.S. primary energy consumption by source, 2022 U.S. primary energy consumption by source, 2022 biomass renewable heating, electricity, transportation 4.9% hydropower renewable electricity 2.3% wind renewable electricity 3.8% solar renewable heating, electricity 1.9% geothermal renewable heating, electricity 0.2% petroleum nonrenewable transportation, manufacturing, electricity 35.7% natural gas nonrenewable heating, manufacturing, electricity, transportation 33.3% coal nonrenewable electricity, manufacturing 9.8% nuclear (from uranium) nonrenewable electricity 8.0% Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review, Table 1.3 and 10.2, April 2023, preliminary data Note: Sources not included above are net electricity imports and coal coke, which accounted for less than 1% of U.S. energy consumption in 2022. The sum of individual percentages may not equal 100% because of independent rounding.