Clean Energy Partners: Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, and Natural Gas
The Business Council for Sustainable Energy’s coalition of industries – energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas-together provide a portfolio of readily-available options to solve two of our nation’s most pressing challenges: economic growth and energy security. Clean energy solutions are protecting consumers from sharp increases in energy prices, making government, businesses and homes more energy efficient and competitive, while making our nation more energy independent and secure.
Commercially-available clean energy options also have significant job creation power. Energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas support millions of jobs today, in every state of the country, and present the opportunity to create millions more U.S. jobs with the appropriate market conditions.
Working in a clean energy partnership, natural gas, energy efficiency and renewable energy each play an important and complementary role.
Energy is so much a part of life that we often use it without thinking, especially when it’s in the form of electricity or energy used to heat our homes and businesses. Our homes and businesses account for 40 percent of the energy we consume and 30 percent of total energy usage comes from the industrial sector.
Policies to expand the deployment and financing of energy efficiency technologies and services-on both the supply-side (producing energy) and the demand-side (using energy)-will save consumers money and mitigate the impact of spikes in energy prices.
Further, energy efficiency lowers overall energy demand and reduces the need to build costly new power plants or rely on risky sources of supply. Energy efficiency also includes “smart” technologies that empower households and businesses to choose the most affordable time to draw upon energy resources.
A McKinsey & Company study1, sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Energy, identified opportunities for energy efficiency that could result in up to $700 billion in savings to the U.S. economy. In a budget-constrained economy, these savings are priceless. The study also found that elevating energy efficiency to a national priority could produce 600,000 to 900,000 jobs.
Energy efficiency also makes our country more secure by reducing our reliance on imported energy, and is the quickest, cleanest, and most cost-effective way to meet our energy needs with a domestic resource.
Energy efficiency technologies in the BCSE coalition include: advanced batteries, combined heat and power (CHP) and recycled energy, demand response, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC), information communication technologies, insulation, industrial efficiency processes, and commercial and residential building products and services.
Renewable energy is a free source of energy that is clean to capture and generate. Once the equipment is installed – a solar panel, wind turbine, hydroelectric facility, or geothermal well – the only on-going costs are for operation and maintenance.
As our energy infrastructure ages and demand continues to grow, renewable energy provides a practical and domestic power supply with significant job creation benefits. When integrated with energy efficiency investments and the domestic natural gas, the deployment of renewable energy technologies will result in a U.S. energy portfolio that is diverse, reliable and secure.
The Council’s broad portfolio of renewable energy technologies produce more than just megawatts — they produce jobs. For example:
Wind generation accounted for 39 percent of all new generating capacity added in 2009. With a major national commitment to clean energy, wind energy could potentially provide 20 percent of our electricity2 while creating 500,000 jobs in the wind sector.
The United States has some of the best solar resources in the world, with enough suitable roof space to provide 20 percent of our electricity and water heating and enough suitable land to power the country several times over. The solar industry currently employs almost 100,000 Americans across all fifty states, and is projected to support over half a million American jobs by 2016.3
Hydropower currently provides 6-8 percent of all U.S. electricity generation,4 with a 60,000 megawatt (MW) potential capacity increase by 2025,5 and a 400,000 MW technical potential.6 With strong policies in place, the U.S. hydropower industry can add 1.4 million new family-supporting jobs in all regions by 2025, adding to the 300,000 jobs the industry currently provides.
It has been estimated that 72-325 jobs per billion cubic feet (Bcf) of renewable bio-gas can be created, depending on the source. Given a market potential of 1,800 Bcf,7 the job creation potential would be 516,000 new jobs across the country.
In 2011, 500 to 700 MW of geothermal power projects are expected to enter their final construction phase in the U.S., adding approximately 3,000 construction jobs to the U.S. economy.8
Renewable energy is represented in the BCSE coalition by manufacturers of technologies that use bio-gas, biomass, geothermal, hydrogen and fuel cells, hydropower, solar, and wind resources as well as project developers and utilities that purchase renewable energy.
Natural gas is a clean, domestically abundant fuel, which can be used efficiently to produce both electricity and high quality thermal energy to heat and provide other services to homes, businesses, and government buildings.
Natural gas is a flexible resource and is well suited to help expand renewable energy generation across the country. Natural gas power plants can quickly and efficiently change their level of output, which makes them ideally suited for accommodating variability in electricity supply and demand on the grid, including that associated with renewable resources.
Futher, in typical home appliances, direct use of natural gas reduces energy consumption, on a full-fuel-cycle basis, more than 25 percent compared to a similar all-electric home.9
Natural gas power plants are also a low-cost source of capacity for meeting electric demand; and in optimal designs, natural gas-fired combined heat and power plants can achieve thermal efficiencies of 70 to 90 percent while conventional methods of producing usable heat and power separately is typically only 45 percent efficient.
Stationary fuel cells, powered by biofuels or natural gas are also a source of efficient, clean, reliable power that can be generated on-site, providing both thermal energy and electricity for commercial and industrial companies as well as government and utilities.
With at least one hundred years of reserves available in the United States10 and technological advances in natural gas extraction, natural gas offers a reliable domestic resource. These advances have enabled America’s producers to leave smaller footprints and move less land, drill fewer wells to add the same reserves, and reduce air pollution in the production of natural gas.11 Given its large-scale supply, it is essential that production be achieved in a sustainable manner that protects human health and our environment.
Natural gas industries included in the BCSE coalition include load distribution companies, natural gas-fired electricity generators, natural gas pipelines, natural gas suppliers and leading natural gas research organizations.