This week, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Bloomberg New Energy Finance released its sixth annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. USGBC is a proud sponsor of this 2018 edition, a revealing look at industry trends in energy efficiency and renewable energy over the past year.
Increased renewable production
Despite a stated uncertainty related to domestic policy, renewable energy production output still grew to record levels in 2017. An expansion of 14 percent in renewable generation in the past year brought the total renewables portfolio up to 18 percent of total U.S. generation—representing a twofold increase from one decade prior.
Contributing to this boom in renewable energy production is a record number of wind and solar projects built in 2016 that had their first full year of operation in 2017. In fact, the report found that the level of energy from renewable sources now rivals nuclear power production.
Rising energy productivity
Although the U.S. economy grew by 2.3 percent in 2017, energy consumption shrank during this time, indicating an overall increase in energy productivity and reflecting improvements in efficiency and other factors.
The factbook also reported on how the American consumer has been affected by these changes to the energy landscape. In 2017, consumer spending on electricity decreased by 1.3 percent, in a way at least partially attributable to energy efficiency measures. The report also highlights data on the use of selected policy measures, including energy efficiency resource standards and smart thermostat rebates.
Growth in renewable and energy efficiency jobs
Collectively, the renewable energy, energy efficiency, and natural gas sectors employed around 3.3 million Americans in 2016, and energy efficiency alone supporting 2.2 million of those jobs. Solar was responsible for supporting an estimated 374,000 jobs, representing the single largest employer in electricity generation in 2016. Between 2015 and 2016, solar added more electricity generation jobs (more than 73,000) than any other energy source, followed by wind (more than 24,000).
For the first time this year, the Clean Energy Business Network released a companion resource, “Faces Behind the Facts.” This web-based project tells the stories of several individuals in the clean energy sector, representing some of the 3.3 million people who work in jobs related to energy and energy efficiency.
Buildings certifying to Energy Star standards
Energy Star deployment in U.S. commercial buildings has generally seen an uptick in recent years, with over 4.7 billion commercial square feet currently certified—an increase from 4.3 billion in 2016. Large buildings, particularly offices, are responsible for the majority of Energy Star-certified buildings, though the education and retail sectors have emerged as areas for potential growth. In particular, the factbook saw that a key challenge was an effective approach in encouraging Energy Star certification in buildings smaller than 50,000 square feet.
- For state-specific information on clean energy, check out the factbook’s State Spotlight.
- To learn more about what the factbook reports on U.S. infrastructure, see the Infrastructure slides.