Who Owns The Energy In The Us?

Who owns the energy in the US?

The United States has a diverse energy landscape, with production and consumption spread across a variety of sources. In 2022, about 81% of total U.S. energy production came from fossil fuels like petroleum, natural gas, and coal. Meanwhile, renewables like wind, solar, hydropower, and biomass accounted for about 22% of total energy production. Nuclear power made up the remaining 10%. On the consumption side, petroleum accounted for about 36% of U.S. energy consumption in 2021. Natural gas represented about 32%, while renewables were 11%, coal 11%, and nuclear power 8%.

Overall, U.S. energy production and consumption is transitioning to lower carbon sources. Renewable energy consumption is projected to increase at an average annual rate of 3.1% between 2022 and 2050, compared to just 0.2% growth in total energy use. However, fossil fuels still dominate the current U.S. energy system.

Fossil Fuels

The United States has vast reserves of fossil fuels including oil, natural gas, and coal. In 2019, the top fossil fuel companies in the US based on production and revenue were:

  • Exxon Mobil – The largest US oil company by revenue and market capitalization. Produced over 2.2 million barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) in 2019.
  • Chevron – Second largest US oil company. Produced 2.9 million boed globally in 2019.
  • ConocoPhillips – Among the largest US independent exploration and production companies. Produced 1.3 million boed in 2019.
  • EOG Resources – Leading shale oil and natural gas producer. Produced 881,000 boed in 2019.
  • Occidental Petroleum – Major US oil and gas company focused on shale. Produced 702,000 boed in 2019.

These top oil companies account for a substantial portion of US oil and gas production. However, smaller independent companies make up a significant share of total output as well.

Renewable Energy

Renewable energy has been rapidly expanding in the United States over the past decade. Some of the top renewable energy companies leading production in the US include NextEra Energy, Green Mountain Energy, TPI Composites, and Renewable Energy Group.

NextEra Energy is the country’s largest electric utility holding company and has been investing heavily in renewable energy. The company owns eight subsidiaries including NextEra Energy Resources, the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun. NextEra Energy Resources alone accounts for nearly 25% of the wind energy produced in the US.

Other major players in wind energy production include Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Avangrid, EDF Renewable Energy, and Clearway Energy. In solar energy, some of the top companies are First Solar, SunPower, SolarEdge Technologies, and Sunrun.

Overall, renewable energy accounted for about 12.6% of total U.S. energy consumption and about 17.5% of electricity generation in 2019. Wind and solar have grown rapidly but still make up a relatively small portion of total U.S. energy production. Hydroelectric power accounts for over 40% of renewable electricity generation.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy is an important source of electricity in the United States, accounting for about 20% of total electricity generation and over half of the country’s low-carbon electricity. In 2020, nuclear power plants in the U.S. produced 809 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, avoiding the emission of nearly 470 million metric tons of carbon dioxide compared to fossil fuel generation (https://justenergy.com/blog/nuclear-energy-guide-atomic-power/)

While nuclear generation has remained relatively flat over the past decade, forecasts predict steady declines in nuclear energy production going forward. According to Statista, nuclear energy production in the U.S. is projected to fall from 807 billion kWh in 2021 to about 500 billion kWh by 2050 (https://www.statista.com/statistics/504373/nuclear-energy-production-in-the-us-forecast/).

The nuclear energy industry is dominated by a handful of major operators. As of 2020, the largest owner of nuclear capacity in the U.S. was Exelon Corporation, which owned over 21 gigawatts through subsidiaries including Exelon Generation and Constellation Energy Nuclear Group. Other top owners included Duke Energy, Entergy, and Dominion Energy (https://i2i.org/china-ready-to-ramp-up-nuclear-energy-production-u-s-must-counter/).

Residential Energy

The residential sector accounts for about 21% of total U.S. energy consumption. There are 120.92 million households in the U.S., as of 2019 (Energy Data Facts | Residential Program Guide). The average U.S. household consumes about 10,500 kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity per year (Electricity use in homes – U.S. Energy Information…). However, electricity use in homes varies widely depending on factors like size, age, occupancy, and appliances. Other residential energy uses include natural gas for heating, cooking, and clothes drying.

Commercial Energy

Over the last decade, commercial buildings in the US have accounted for a significant portion of the country’s overall energy consumption. According to the Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS), in 2018 there were approximately 5.9 million commercial buildings in the US which consumed 6.8 quadrillion Btu of energy. This accounted for 35% of total US energy consumption that year.

The sectors that comprise commercial buildings include mercial, office, education, healthcare, lodging, public assembly, public order and safety, religious worship, service, warehouse and storage, and other. Of these, office buildings consumed the most energy in 2018 at 1.8 quadrillion Btu. Mercantile buildings followed at 1.5 quadrillion Btu. Overall, space heating accounted for over a quarter of energy use at 26%, followed by lighting (13%), cooling (12%), and ventilation (10%).

Trends show that while the number of commercial buildings continues to increase, average energy use per building has declined. This is largely due to improvements in building envelopes, lighting, and HVAC systems. However, total commercial energy use is still significant and points to the need for further efficiency improvements in the coming years.

Industrial Energy

In 2022, the industrial sector accounted for 35% of total U.S. end-use energy consumption and 33% of total U.S. energy consumption.
[1] Industry uses many energy sources to power various industrial processes. Major energy sources consumed by industry include [1]:

  • Natural gas (33% of total industrial energy use)
  • Renewable energy (22%)
  • Petroleum (22%)
  • Coal (13%)
  • Electricity (9%)

The industrial sector encompasses manufacturing, agriculture, mining, and construction. Energy is consumed to power machinery, generate heat, provide lighting, and perform chemical reactions needed to create end products. The most energy-intensive industries include petroleum refining, chemical manufacturing, paper production, aluminum smelting, and cement manufacturing.[2]

Overall, industrial energy use has remained relatively flat in recent years. Energy efficiency improvements have enabled some industries to lower consumption per unit of output. However, increased manufacturing activity in some industries has offset those efficiency gains.

Moving forward, industrial energy consumption is projected to increase about 0.6% per year through 2050. Continued growth in manufactured goods will drive energy demand higher, countered by further efficiency improvements.

[1] https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/use-of-energy/industry.php

[2] https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/us-energy-facts/

Transportation Energy

Transportation accounts for a major share of energy consumption in the United States. In 2022, the transportation sector accounted for 29% of total U.S. energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (Use of Energy Explained: Energy Use for Transportation). The vast majority of this energy comes from petroleum-based fuels like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.

Cars, trucks, buses, trains, ships, and aircraft all require tremendous amounts of energy to move people and goods from one place to another. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, in 2020 the U.S. transportation sector consumed 28,234 trillion BTU of energy (U.S. Energy Consumption by the Transportation Sector). This breaks down to around 19,383 trillion BTU from petroleum, 4,669 trillion BTU from renewable energy, and 4,181 trillion BTU from natural gas.

The largest share of transportation energy goes to light duty vehicles like cars and light trucks. However, heavy duty vehicles, air travel, rail, waterborne transportation, and pipelines all require significant energy inputs. Going forward, improving vehicle efficiency, substituting alternative fuels, and changing travel behaviors can reduce transportation energy use and emissions.

Government Influence

The government has significant influence over energy production and consumption in the United States through policies, regulations, and initiatives. Some of the key ways the government impacts the energy sector include:

Energy policy and regulation – The Department of Energy oversees national energy policy. Regulatory agencies like the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission regulate interstate energy transmission and wholesale electricity markets. Government policies like renewable portfolio standards and clean energy incentives shape energy production at the federal and state level.

Public lands – The government controls large amounts of public lands and offshore areas that are leased out for fossil fuel extraction and renewable energy projects. For example, the Bureau of Land Management administers over 245 million acres of public lands with significant energy resources.

Research and development – The government provides substantial R&D funding to advance clean energy technologies like wind, solar, nuclear, hydrogen, energy storage, carbon capture, and more through the Department of Energy.

Government operations – As a major energy consumer, the government’s own sustainability and procurement initiatives impact energy demand. For example, Executive Order 14057 directs federal agencies to achieve net-zero emissions from federal procurement and operations by 2050.

Financial incentives – Tax credits, grants, and loan guarantees for renewable energy projects and energy efficiency upgrades shape markets. Recently, the Inflation Reduction Act expanded incentives for clean energy deployment.

The government exerts significant influence over the energy system through this combination of policy levers, though the private sector still owns and operates most U.S. energy assets.


In summary, the energy landscape in the US is complex, with ownership and production spread across the public and private sectors. Fossil fuels like oil, gas, and coal still make up the majority of energy production and are largely owned by private corporations. Renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydro are growing rapidly but still represent a small portion of overall energy and are owned by a mix of private companies, individuals, and utilities.

Nuclear energy is almost entirely produced and owned by regional power companies and utilities. For residential consumers, energy is provided by local utility monopolies that are highly regulated. Commercial and industrial enterprises generate some of their own energy but also buy from utilities. In transportation, petroleum companies dominate fuel production and supply.

Overall, while the private sector owns much of energy production and supply, the government still plays a major regulatory role. Policy incentives continue to shape the energy mix by favoring certain sources over others. In conclusion, energy ownership involves a complex mix of public and private interests, with fossil fuels still dominant but renewables growing in prominence.

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