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BCSE In Action

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 15, 2018

U.S. Clean Energy Expanded Rapidly in 2017, Supporting American Jobs and Keeping Energy Costs Low

Key Findings in Sixth Edition of the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook Highlight U.S. Energy Trends Contributing to American Economic Competitiveness

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 15, 2018 – The rapid deployment of energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy in 2017 generated economic benefits without requiring increases in energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions. Looking over the year, the growth of sustainable energy industries contributed to greater economic competitiveness, job creation, and the expansion of the American economy. This conclusion, from the 2018 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, is the result of a comprehensive review of energy statistics conducted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE).

BNEF summarizes the 2018 Factbook as follows: “The massive and historic transformation of the U.S. energy sector clicked into a higher gear in 2017, despite new policy uncertainties. Renewable deployment grew at a near-record pace, energy productivity and GDP growth both accelerated, and the U.S. became a serious player in the global liquefied natural gas market. All of this combined to squeeze U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to a 25-year low, while keeping costs in check for consumers.”

“The performance is proof that clean energy delivers for the American economy,” Lisa Jacobson, President of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, declared in summarizing the findings of this year’s Factbook. “The 2018 Factbook demonstrates that energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy are generating jobs and cleaner air while reducing energy use and boosting the productivity of the American economy. The focus of national energy policy in 2018 and beyond should be to further enhance and promote the continued growth of these clean energy sectors.”

“Sustainable energy deployment soared to record levels in 2017, cementing its role as a key contributor to U.S. energy,” says Rachel Luo, the lead BNEF author of the report. “At 18% of the power mix, renewable energy resouces including hydropower are making nearly as large a contribution to U.S. electricity generation as the country’s nuclear fleet. Meanwhile, the falling price of newer technologies such as lithium-ion batteries is fueling the transformation of both the transportation and power sectors.”

The 2018 Factbook is the sixth edition of an annual resource that outlines key energy trends contributing to American economic competitiveness. This year’s Factbook demonstrates yet again that the rise of clean energy positively impacts the American economy, energy infrastructure and the environment. Key findings are summarized below.

The transformation of the energy sector escalated in 2017, as evidenced by continuing trends:

  • Natural gas remained the primary source of power generation in the U.S., and wind and solar build, combined with increased hydropower generation, drove renewable generation up from 15% to 18% of the total electricity mix in one year.
  • Energy productivity, which is the amount of GDP produced by a unit of energy, climbed 2.5% in 2017.
    Costs remained low: consumers devoted only 1.3% of their spending towards electricity, smaller than at any time ever recorded. This offset a rise in the share of spending devoted to gasoline and motor fuels (up to 2.1% in 2017 from 1.9% in 2016), allowing the total percent of household expenses dedicated to energy costs to hover under 4%, near an all-time low.
  • Emissions from the electricity sector plummeted again, falling 4.2% year-on-year to the lowest level in more than 27 years.

The U.S. remains globally competitive for energy-intensive industries, thanks to low industrial power prices, and U.S. players continue to invest in clean energy:

  • Historically, industrial power prices in the U.S. have been among the most affordable in the world (averaging 6.76¢/kWh in 2016). The U.S. had the second lowest prices of the G-7 countries in 2016; Canada was number one.
  • Corporations are playing a stronger role in the energy transformation, increasingly demanding cleaner energy and seeking to capture gains from energy efficiency. In 2017, corporations signed new deals for 2.9 GW worth of offsite renewable capacity.
  • Global clean energy investment rose to $333 billion, the second-highest amount on record. U.S. investments tracked 2016 levels, at $57 billion, but saw a shift in capital deployment towards wind and energy smart technologies.

New developments in the U.S. energy sector in 2017 included:

  • The U.S. is solidifying its role as a global liquefied natural gas exporter, and for the first time was a net exporter of natural gas for every month of the year.
  • New sales of battery, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid vehicles accelerated, driven by longer-range versions of existing models, long-range affordable BEVs, and the electrification of new car segments. Significantly, the price of lithium-ion battery packs, a key cost component for battery electric vehicles, plummeted 23% year-on-year and have fallen 65% in five years (between 2013 and year end 2017).
  • Greater climate commitments from sub-national and private sector actors emerged in response to federal government climate policy back-tracking. Federal-level actions ranging from trade cases to tax reform also caused uncertainty in the market for clean technologies.

The U.S. energy transformation is impacting the economy, including jobs and investments in infrastructure and grid resilience:

  • The renewable energy, energy efficiency and natural gas sectors employed approximately three million Americans in 2016. Energy efficiency, with nearly 2.2 million jobs, was the largest single employer within the sustainable energy sectors.
  • American economic growth is picking up steam, without a parallel jump in energy consumption. Since 2008, primary energy usage has shrunk 1.7% even as GDP has accelerated by 15.3%.
  • Utilities and independent developers continue to invest in infrastructure to improve grid operations and support the growth of clean energy. Investor-owned utilities and independent developers spent an estimated $22.9 billion on electric transmission in 2017, a 10% rise year-on-year and a 91% increase since 2011. Investment in midstream natural gas infrastructure (e.g., transmission, distribution and storage) climbed 19% from 2015 to 2016, with distribution accounting for nearly half of the escalation in spending. Total investment in distribution hit its highest level yet at $13.4bn, a 16% expansion from 2015 levels.

The 2018 Factbook includes a comprehensive overview and detailed charts, graphs and sources for a wide range of information that defines the U.S. sustainable energy landscape.

The 2018 Factbook is offered in PDF format available electronically (download from the BCSE website here: http://www.bcse.org/sustainableenergyfactbook) and in a hard copy format directly from the BCSE. The Factbook is intended to serve as a reference guide of sustainable energy statistics throughout the year for media, policymakers, business and industry.

Media Contacts

Laura Tierney, ltierney [at]bcse.org

Veronika Henze, vhenze[at]bloomberg.net

About the Factbook Partners

Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) is an industry research firm focused on helping energy professionals generate opportunities. With a team of 200 experts spread across six continents, BNEF provides independent analysis and insight, enabling decision-makers to navigate change in an evolving energy economy. Leveraging the most sophisticated new energy data sets in the world, BNEF synthesizes proprietary data into astute narratives that frame the financial, economic and policy implications of emerging energy technologies. Bloomberg New Energy Finance is powered by Bloomberg’s global network of 19,000 employees in 176 locations, reporting 5,000 news stories a day. Visit https://about.bnef.com/ or request more information.

Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) is a coalition of companies and trade associations from the energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy sectors. The Council membership also includes equipment manufacturers, equipment manufacturers, independent electric power producers, investor-owned utilities, public power, commercial end-users and project developers and service providers for energy and environmental markets. Since 1992, the Council has been a leading industry voice advocating for policies at the state, national and international levels that increase the use of commercially-available clean energy technologies, products and services.

Download the full press release.