For the full 134-page ebook: http://www.bcse.org/sustainableenergyfactbook/
The massive and historic transformation of the U.S. energy sector clicked into a higher gear in 2017, despite some new headwinds including policy uncertainties. Renewable deployment grew at a near-record pace. Energy productivity and GDP growth both accelerated, demonstrating that the U.S. economy can grow at a reasonable rate even as total energy consumption actually declines.
Liquefied natural gas export capacity expanded, allowing the U.S. to become a serious player in global exports for the first time. Power and gas infrastructure build continued to support grid performance and natural gas delivery. All of this combined to bring U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to a 25-year low while creating jobs and keeping costs in check for consumers. We draw out the key highlights below.
New U.S. wind and solar build, combined with an easing drought in the West, drove renewable generation up from 15% to 18% of the total electricity mix in one year, while contributions from natural gas and coal tapered modestly.
- Renewable generation (including hydropower) soared 14% to an estimated 717 TWh (terawatt-hours) in 2017, from 628 TWh in 2016. The expansion brought renewables to 18% of total U.S. generation – double their contribution a decade ago. Renewables achieved new heights partly due to a rebound in hydro (up 13%, or 36TWh) as reservoir levels on the West Coast recovered after a severe, prolonged drought.
At the same time, a chart-busting number of wind and solar projects built in 2016 (nearly 23 GW worth) had their first full year of operation in 2017, bolstering non-hydro renewable generation by 15% to 413 TWh. The surge further establishes renewables’ critical role in the U.S. power mix – renewable technologies now contribute nearly as much electricity as the nuclear fleet.
- With 18.4 GW of new additions, 2017 marked another boom year for renewables build, second only to 2016’s record of 22.7 GW. Overall, renewables have contributed 55% of total build in the past 10 years. Non-hydro renewables continued to represent the largest share of all U.S. new installations, hitting roughly 62% in 2017.
- Build in other renewable sectors (biomass, biogas, waste-to-energy, geothermal, and hydro) continued to stall without long-term policy support. Geothermal added only 24MW through one new project. Large-scale biomass, biogas, and waste-to-energy combined added 176MW, while hydro commissioned 208MW.
- Renewables’ rise came as natural gas-fired generation decreased by an estimated 8.1% (113 TWh). This brought gas’ share of total U.S. generation down from 34% in 2016 to 32% in 2017. Recovering gas prices, as well as a 1.7% year-on-year fall in a total generation (including estimates for distributed solar), may have also contributed to the drop in natural-gas-fired generation.
- Nonetheless, natural gas retained its position as the number one producer of U.S. power, as electricity production from coal slipped as well (although to a smaller extent – 37 TWh, equivalent to a 3% decline). Continued changes to the structural make-up of the U.S. fleet will likely cement its role here for some years: natural gas build boasted its best year since 2005, as new installations reached 10.7 GW in 2017. Further, by end-2017, owners of coal plants – which directly compete with gas in many areas of the country – had announced 12.5 GW of planned retirements for 2018, foreshadowing the largest year for coal decommissioning since the 15 GW of retirements in 2015.
Consumers devoted a smaller share of their spending towards electricity than at any time ever recorded, while the total share of household expenses dedicated to energy costs also hovered near an all-time low. Power and natural gas prices remain subdued across the country, and contract prices for wind and solar continued to plunge.
- American consumer spending on electricity shrank slightly in 2017 to 1.3% of personal consumption expenditures, down from 1.4% in 2016. Greater energy efficiency and the continued availability of cheap fuels likely contributed to keeping electricity costs a modest part of total consumer expenditures. Spending on natural gas also remained muted, as consumers directed just under 0.4% of their outlays to this resource, similar to 2016 levels.
- A rebound in spending on other energy goods, especially gasoline and motor fuels, counterbalanced the drop in the share of expenditures devoted to electricity bills. Households put 2.1% of their total consumption towards gasoline and motor fuels, up from 1.9% in 2016. However, overall, Americans continue to direct just under 4% of their outlays to energy-related costs – only 2016 has seen a smaller share.
- Retail power prices remained subdued in the U.S. But unlike 2016, when prices fell across the country (on the back of waning wholesale power prices), average retail prices rose modestly in 2017 across most regions. They picked up by 0.5% in New England and the Northwest; around 1% in New York, MISO and the Southeast; 1.2% in SPP; 1.5% in the Southwest; 3.5% in California; 4.8% in Florida; and 6.4% in Alaska. However, average retail prices also dipped by roughly half a% in PJM and ERCOT.
- In the wholesale power market, average prices rallied in 2017 across the U.S. on the back of natural gas prices, which rose 18% to average $2.96/MMBtu at Henry Hub.
For the rest of the nine-page Executive summary: http://www.bcse.org/wp-content/uploads/2018-Sustainable-Energy-in-America-Factbook_Executive-Summary.pdf
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