Top 10 Energy Numbers of 2017
The face of energy is changing. There are a number of important numbers that savvy business consumers must look to in order to better understand how energy consumption has the power to impact the future.
36%: The power of wind
Wind turbines are raising increasingly more power across the United States--and this often-overlooked power source has even more potential than most people think. In Iowa, for example, wind energy produces approximately 36% of the state's generated power, offering approximately 6,900 megawatts (MW) of power. As many states choose to move toward renewable power generation in an effort to reduce environmental impact and seek out sources of power that will continue to work long-term, it's important that they not miss the potential impact wind power could have on the nation. While it doesn't receive as much attention as solar power, wind-generated power is in use from coast to coast. Not only that, it is currently estimated that there is enough wind power over the oceans that, if used properly, it could theoretically generate enough energy to power the needs of civilized society worldwide. While these estimates are still purely theoretical, it's evident that this is a form of energy that deserves continuing study and consideration.
10.68%: Renewable energy resources
For the first quarter of 2017 alone, renewable energy resources made up approximately 10.68% of the total energy generation across the United States. While these numbers are still low compared to the vast amount of energy generated every day, America is clearly stepping up to the plate and finding ways to take advantage of renewable resources to power homes, businesses, and public facilities. This is due in part to the government incentives offered for power companies that are willing to go the extra mile for renewable power; however, it's also due to the overall commitment to decreasing emissions, increasing sustainability, and overall decreasing environmental impact.
34%: Energy produced by natural gas
The winds of change are blowing across America--and not just in terms of wind power and other renewable resources. With approximately 34% of America's power produced by natural gas, it's impossible to avoid seeing the rapid changes to the energy sector. Less than a decade ago, coal was the primary method of energy production. Now, many other sources are rising up to push coal out of its place. In 2016, natural gas energy production replaced coal for the first time--a move that has the potential to transform the way America does energy in the coming years.
1%: Growth of energy demand
The growth of energy demand has decreased substantially as energy efficiency has increased and people have learned more about how to maintain sustainability. While some short-term factors likely influenced this lack of growth, it's also true that sustainability efforts and other practices have helped to decrease the growth of energy demand worldwide. With just 1% growth in demand, it's possible that the need to produce increasingly more and more energy is slowly dwindling. According to Tim Bigler, Senior Energy Analyst at Direct Energy Business, the growth (both actual and forecasted) of renewables and highly efficient gas fired generators has “led to the retirement of coal, nuclear and even marginal gas units.” It should be noted, however, that in September 2017 the Department of Energy issued a rarely-used section of law that would require the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to issue a final rule requiring “fair and full compensation” for baseload power plants. Under this type of order, plants that have 90 days’ worth of fuel stored on-site would qualify for full compensation. This would allow these plants to continue to compete in the wholesale markets, even though their profits have been squeezed by cheaper natural gas and renewables.
73%: Solar costs have decreased
Solar power has long been renowned as one of the most eco-friendly forms of energy production. Not so long ago, however, it was an expensive proposition that made little financial sense to many business owners, power plants, and even private homeowners. Over the past several years, however, the cost to install solar panels and generate solar power has decreased substantially. In California, for example, the cost of solar power is now approximately equal to other power generation methods, and it's expected to continue to drop over the coming years. Currently, the cost to generate solar power has decreased 73% since 2010.
In 2017, the Department of Energy also announced that it achieved the 2020 utility-scale solar cost target set by the Sunshot Initiative. According to a news release issued in September 2017, “largely due to rapid cost declines in solar photovoltaic (PV) hardware, the average price of utility-scale solar is now 6 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh).
14 Days: March's energy overload in California
California has long been known for leading the way when it comes to green energy and other eco-friendly endeavors--including the switch to solar power. In fact, California has been able to generate such a substantial amount of solar power that its lines have been unable to handle the load, requiring that California siphon off some of its power to other states in order to avoid overloading those critical power lines. In March alone, California paid Arizona to take its additional solar energy for 14 days--and Arizona wasn't the only state to benefit from California's overload. While some of this overload is due to substantial energy production throughout California, it is also impacted by the continuing struggle to decide how energy will be produced throughout California: some thought leaders are still pushing for natural gas-fueled power plants, for example.
Global carbon emissions: flat
While it's not a straight percentage change, it's well worth noting that globally, there has been no increase in carbon emissions over the past several years. While many developing countries are still struggling with rising carbon emissions, the United States has actually seen an overall drop in carbon emissions--around 3% for 2016. Worldwide, there are a number of incentives for transitioning to clean, renewable energy sources that will help decrease those emissions and maintain global stability as much as possible.
373,807: Number of jobs in solar energy
Producing energy isn't just about providing the power that businesses and homes need in order to operate effectively. It's also about providing jobs for many Americans. Currently, there are 373,807 jobs in solar power. Comparatively, coal offers just 160,119, while natural gas provides 398,235. Oil is still the clear leader, offering 515,518 jobs.
17%: US coal capacity that has retired
Since 2008, around 17% of the US coal capacity has retired. Another 4% of those plants have transitioned to other energy sources. This represents a significant shift in the way energy is produced throughout the United States. However, coal still represents Coal power is on the decline, especially as power producers look for more renewable ways to produce the energy that is needed to power the nation. While coal has lost its electricity generation share to other fuels, “it still accounted for 30% of the U.S. electricity generation mix in the first half of 2017 compared with natural gas and renewables (including hydro) at 31% and 20%, respectively."
50 States: Number of states generating some energy from renewable sources
While some states have taken more concentrated initiative than others, all 50 states are now producing at least some of their energy from renewable sources--most notably wind and solar power. Even states that don't have a wide percentage of their own energy production coming from renewable sources are getting in on the action by producing components that are used in these vital industries. There remains, however, a great deal of untapped potential in many states--an effort that is likely to continue to improve in the future.
It's clear that renewable energy is the name of the energy game in 2017 and beyond. Between global initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and the cost decrease of many common renewable energy sources, it's evident that there's a lot happening on the renewable energy market of the future. In the coming years, larger percentages of global energy production--especially production in the United States--will likely come from those renewable sources, transforming the face of energy forever.