On Feb. 13, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released their annual 2019 “Sustainable Energy in America Factbook,” a data-packed summary of U.S. and global energy markets. This year’s Factbook revealed that clean energy powered the U.S. economy with $64 billion in total new investment in 2018 (up 11% from 2017), energy productivity increased 14% since 2009, and the industry employs more than 3 million Americans.
Overall, the 2019 Factbook shows that in 2018, as the U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in five years, these longstanding trends continued:
- Renewables grew in volume and importance, while grid reliability was maintained. New installations of mostly wind and solar capacity in 2018 hit 19.5 gigawatts (GW).
- Wind is the largest single source of zero-carbon power-generating capacity in the U.S. Total wind installations are essentially level with nuclear in terms of capacity.
- States and localities again led the charge on sustainable energy policy-making. California promised to achieve 100% renewables while Nevada, New Jersey and New York also upped the ante on their renewables, efficiency, and battery deployment pledges. Florida agreed to allow third-party PV installers to operate in the state.
- Coal's decline continued. Its contribution to overall power generation fell to 27%, the lowest in the post-WWII era. Meanwhile, another 13GW of existing plant retirements were completed or announced, the second most in U.S. history.
- Energy remained affordable. Households continue to spend record lows as a percent of personal income on electricity and natural gas bills. Weighted-average retail power prices fell 1-3%, though they did rise in some regions. The U.S. is second after Canada with the lowest industrial electricity prices among G7 nations.
- U.S. energy jobs grew. The U.S. energy sector employs approximately 6.5 million Americans, up 2 percent in 2017 from 2016 (the most recent data available), with energy efficiency, renewable energy and natural gas sectors employing 3.4 million Americans in 2017, according to the latest national census.
- The popularity of electric vehicles grew. EVs accounted for only 1.3% of total vehicles sold in the U.S in the 4th quarter of 2017. By third quarter 2018, that had nearly doubled to 2.5%, then hit 3% by the fourth quarter.
- Battery storage costs fell further. Lithium-ion battery prices dropped another 18% year- on-year, boosting both EVs and stationary storage applications and encouraging electric utilities to sign power purchase agreements pairing storage with solar and wind.
- Corporate customers continued to drive demand for sustainable energy. Retailers, major technology firms, and even an oil-major contracted record volumes of renewable power through direct contracts. Others pledged to double energy productivity or to green their vehicle fleets.
Factbook data showed that more businesses are realizing the economic benefits of advanced energy, with corporate procurements at an all-time high. In fact, corporate renewable energy contracts totaled 8.6 GW in 2018, beating the previous record of 3.2 GW. Of these, Advanced Energy Buyers Group members rank among top purchasers in 2018, with some AEBG members featured in the 2019 Factbook.
Later this Spring, expect another industry resource that details the impact of advanced energy on the U.S. economy: AEE’s Advanced Energy Now 2019 Market Report summarizes global and U.S. advanced energy market revenue, breaks it down by key segments, and highlights top trends.