The US gets its electricity from a variety of different sources and technologies. The vast majority comes from three categories; fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable energy.

For decades, fossil fuel dominated electricity generation in the US. In the 1960’s, nuclear power started to take off before tapering off in the early 2000’s. Recently, renewable energy has started to grow with lowering costs and more efficient technology.

Today, the US is still heavily reliant on fossil fuels for electricity generation. Natural gas and coal account for over 60% of all electricity geerated in 2017. Here is the breakdown

electricity generation by source in the US

Natural Gas

Natural gas recently took over coal as the #1 electricity generator in the US. In 2017, it accounted for 32% of all electricity generation  and is continuing to grow.


Coal was the second-largest energy source for U.S. electricity generation in 2017—about 30%. Nearly all coal-fired power plants use steam turbines. A few coal-fired power plants convert coal to a gas for use in a gas turbine to generate electricity.


Petroleum was the source of less than 1% of U.S. electricity generation in 2017. Residual fuel oil and petroleum coke are used in steam turbines. Distillate—or diesel—fuel oil is used in diesel-engine generators. Residual fuel oil and distillates can also be burned in gas turbines.

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy was the source of about 20% of U.S. electricity generation in 2017. Nuclear power plants use steam turbines to produce electricity from nuclear fission.

Renewable Energy

A variety of renewable energy sources are used to generate electricity and were the source of about 17% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2017. Here is a breakdown of each renewable source:

renewable energy gnerations