Coal Use Decreases, Energy Efficiency Spending Trends Upward

Rapid economic growth in addition to weather extremes meant an all-time high for energy demand in 2018, according to the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook.

Other significant trends cited in the annual report: As electricity demand reached new highs, the fuel mix continued to transition away from coal and to renewables and natural gas. The U.S. carbon footprint expanded with energy consumption, but the report found large energy consumers are taking steps to reduce and green footprints.

BloombergNEF produced the Factbook for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy to provide up-to-date information on the U.S. energy landscape. The report examines energy efficiency, natural gas, and renewable energy sectors, and covers emerging technology areas such as carbon capture, utilization, and storage; sustainable transportation; and energy storage.

The report also questioned whether implementation of lower-carbon alternatives will continue to trend upward if federal policy support is weak.

Additional ongoing trends identified in the report include:

  • Natural gas continues boom. A record 35 percent of the country’s power generation came from natural gas, and natural gas production was at a record high, too.
  • Renewables grew while the grid remained reliable. In 2018, wind and solar capacity reached 19.5GW. Wind power generated as much capacity as nuclear power.
  • Coal continued decline. Coal only provided 27 percent of U.S. energy, the lowest in the post-WWII era. Another 13GW of existing plants announced or completed retirement.
  • Power producers aim to reduce carbon emissions. While the amount of electricity consumed in increased 2.2 percent this past year, the CO2 emissions from power plants increased just 0.6 percent.
  • Energy remained affordable. Households spent record lows of personal income on electricity and natural gas bills.
  • U.S. energy jobs grew. Energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas companies employ 3.4 million Americans in 2017.
  • ndustrial pricing remains competitive. The United States has the second-lowest industrial electricity prices among the G7 nations.
  • Electric vehicles sales grew. Falling battery prices – a decrease of 18 percent year- on-year – helped drive record electric vehicle sales.
  • States and localities again led the charge on sustainable energy policy-making. California pledged to achieve 100 percent renewables and Nevada, New Jersey and New York also made commitments to renewable use.

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