Last week, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released their 8th annual “2020 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook,” revealing a decade-long transformation of the U.S. energy sector to cleaner advanced energy resources. The report shows that the United States experienced extraordinary change in how we produce, deliver, manage, and consume energy as we shifted to cleaner, more efficient resources since 2010. During the same period, the economy grew more energy efficient, more energy secure, and less carbon intensive, with the American consumer becoming the primary beneficiary. Building on last year’s findings, the 2020 Factbook comes up with some interesting conclusions, some of them self-evident, others more surprising:
- Coal-fired generation is on the decline. Coal-fired power plants provided just 23% of U.S. power generation in 2019 compared to 45% in 2010.
- Natural gas displaced coal-fired power generation. Natural gas-fired power, now the top producer of electricity, grew from 24% of U.S. power needs in 2010 to 38% in 2019.
- Renewable energy resources grew exponentially. Hydro, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and waste-to-energy generation grew 77%, primarily from new utility-scale wind and solar projects, along with rooftop solar systems. In total, renewables accounted for meeting 18% of the nation’s electricity demand in 2019, up from 10% in 2010.
- The U.S. is second only to China in total installed renewable capacity. Renewable energy generating capacity in the U.S. doubled from a decade ago: total installed wind tripled to 108 GW, and is now larger than hydropower capacity. At 75 GW, there is now 80 times more solar capacity than a decade ago.
- Nuclear power largely held steady, contributing 20% of total U.S. electricity generation. Even with fewer reactors online, nuclear delivers the majority of zero-emission power produced in the U.S.
- Energy storage deployment expanded significantly with solar-plus-storage projects demonstrating commercial viability in 2019: 2.4 GW of solar and 870 MW of storage in combined projects won competitive utility contracts.
- Corporations secured a record 14 GW in renewable energy resources through power-purchase agreements in 2019.
- Renewables surpassed coal-fired power generation in April 2019. U.S. hydro, wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, and waste-to-energy produced more than the country’s fleet of coal-fired power plants that month.
- Electric transportation options have exploded, with 44 battery electric models and 35 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles for sale in North America. Ten years ago, U.S. consumers had virtually zero choices when it came to electric vehicles. Americans purchased or leased 1.4 million battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles during the decade, with 71,000 charging points available by the end of 2019.
- Consumers saw lower prices and lower bills. U.S. businesses have consistently accessed some of the lowest cost power available, and U.S. households are spending less than 4% of average monthly income on energy today, down from 5.1% a decade ago.
So what about the coming decade? The Factbook recaps important policy, technology, manufacturing, and American entrepreneurship that transformed our energy sector but holds off on predictions.
However, last month, AEE CEO Nat Kreamer examined key trends that are driving this advanced energy transformation in the new decade in an AEE webinar on "The 2020s and the Coming of an Advanced Energy Economy," featuring industry analysts Shayle Kann of Energy Impact Partners and Pavel Molchanov of Raymond James & Associates, along with Iulia Gheorghiu, editor at Utility Dive, and Scott Tong, correspondent for American Public Media's 'Marketplace.' Seer their presentations and hear their take on the next 10 years by clicking below.