GHG Emissions, Commercial, Industrial, Sourcing Renewables  -  February 13, 2019

Power sector efficiency up despite emissions increase

The electricity sector continued to improve its carbon intensity in 2018 due to increased renewable energy and natural gas power generation and investments in energy efficiency, even as a stronger economy and volatile weather boosted energy demand At the same time,
greater corporate purchasing of renewables, state policies and plunging prices for energy storage continued to reshape the nation’s energy portfolio.

These trends are highlighted in the 2019 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, published by BloombergNEF (BNEF) and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE). “Continued expansion of sustainable energy is not just beneficial to the environment, it is an engine of American economic growth,” BCSE president Lisa Jacobson explained. “In our seventh year of analysis, we found that energy efficiency, natural gas a, d renewable energy continue to be key economic drivers. At the same time, they contribute substantially to important efforts to reduce emissions and develop modern and resilient infrastructure.”

Other key trends identified in the Factbook include: 

  • Energy efficiency investments hit a new high and several states adopted new building energy codes. Total U.S. spending on energy efficiency through formal frameworks—such as utilities, Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) and Property Assessed Clean Energy Programs (PACE)—climbed to a record level of $15 billion in 2017 (the most recent year that data is available).
  • Renewable energy continues to grow. Installations of renewables hit 19.5 gigawatts in 2018. Solar accounted for a combined 11.6 gigawatts last year followed by wind at 7.5 gigawatts. In 2018, hydro added 142 megawatts, biomass and waste-to-energy added 103 megawatts, and geothermal added 53 megawatts. 
  • The business community stepped up to drive demand again. 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, with electric, fuel cell, and renewable natural gas power vehicles.
  • States continued to lead the charge on clean energy policy-making. California promised to achieve 100 percent renewables by 2045 while other states including Nevada, New Jersey, and New York upped the ante on their renewables, efficiency, and battery deployment pledges. Florida agreed to allow third-party PV installers to operate in the state.
  • The popularity of electric vehicles grew. EVs accounted for only 1.3 percent of total vehicles sold in the U.S in the 4th quarter of 2017. By the third quarter in 2018, that had nearly doubled to 2.5 percent, then hit 3 percent by the fourth quarter. 
  • Battery storage costs fell further. Lithium-ion battery prices dropped another 18 percent 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. 
Keywords: BloombergNEF

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