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10 Most Important Energy Numbers from 2016

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Energy isn't always on the front page, but it almost always presents major implications for homes and businesses.

In 2016, there were a number of major storylines across the industry, including significant growth in U.S. solar installations, liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and natural gas-fired power generation.

We’ve assembled some of the year's most telling energy statistics and projections to help highlight the industry's biggest trends. The video below offers a quick preview. 

Of course, many of the year's numbers require a bit more explanation to put them into broader context. 

Here are the top 10 energy numbers from 2016.

119%: Total Growth in U.S. Solar Installations

Earlier this year, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research projected that the U.S. solar market would grow 119 percent in 2016. While that estimate has fluctuated each quarter (as project timelines have shifted into 2017 due to the federal solar ITC extension) and it will be some time before the exact number is finalized, the bottom line is clear: there will be significant year-over-year growth in U.S. solar installations. 

In the first half of 2016 alone, solar accounted for 26 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the U.S. So, what’s been driving the growth in U.S. solar installations? Utility-scale photovoltaics (PV) have driven the majority of demand, making up more than 70 percent of new capacity. Notably, however, more than 57,000 businesses and non-profit organizations have now installed solar systems.

50 Bcf: Amount of U.S. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Exported in First Six Months of 2016

In February, the U.S. made history when it began exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Cheniere Energy's Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana, which is the first LNG export plant in the lower 48 states. In the first six months of 2016, the U.S. exported nearly 50 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of liquefied natural gas (LNG). 

Now, by the middle of 2017, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the U.S. will be a net exporter of natural gas for the first time since 1955. While LNG exports may not have a significant short-term price impact for customers, the U.S. Department of Energy projects that increased LNG exports will eventually cause production – and domestic natural gas prices – to rise.

136 Years: 2016 Was the Hottest Year in 136 Years of Modern Record-Keeping

As one of the year's more scary energy facts, the World Meterological Organization (WMO) announced that 2016 will likely break 2015 temperature records and become the hottest year in 136 years of modern record-keeping. Preliminary data indicates that 2016’s global temperatures are approximately 1.2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels and, from January-September 2016, have been about 0.88° Celsius (1.58°F) above average for a 1961-1990 reference period. 

That means 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been in this century (with 1998 being the only other one) – a fact which bears significant global implications, especially for the energy industry. 

8 Minutes: Amount of Time Consumers Interacted Online with Their Energy Provider

According to Accenture's latest consumer survey, the average customer only spent about 8 minutes interacting with their energy provider online in 2016, with half of customers not interacting on digital channels at all. That fact is staggering, especially when you consider that the average U.S. user spends 20 minutes per day on Facebook and interacts with their financial institution about 17 times per month

While challenging, this is also an opportunity for energy providers to better engage their customers with cutting-edge data insights and energy saving tips. For example, if you're a Direct Energy Business customer, you can track your business's own energy usage and renew your contract simply by logging into MyAccount

More Than 1/3: Total Share of U.S. Natural Gas-Fired Generation

Natural gas continues to play an increasingly important role in U.S. power generation. According to the EIA, the share of U.S. total utility-scale electricity generation will average 34 percent for natural gas and 30 percent for coal in 2016. This marks the first time that U.S. natural gas-fired generation has exceeded coal generation on an annual basis. 

Last year, both fuels supplied about one-third of all U.S. electricity generation. As natural gas prices are projected to increase in the next couple years, natural gas and coal are currently forecasted to generate about 33 percent and 31 percent of electricity in 2017, respectively. 

1992: U.S. Power Sector Carbon Emissions Fell to the Lowest Level in Nearly 25 Years

Last year, U.S. power sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions dropped to the lowest point since 1993. In 2016, mild weather and shifts in the U.S. generation mix helped tamp down the sector's carbon emissions even further.  

The EIA estimates that U.S. energy-related carbon emissions totaled 2,530 million metric tons from January-June 2016, which is the lowest level of emissions for the first six months of a year since 1991. They anticipate that energy-related carbon emissions will fall to about 5,179 million metric tons in 2016 – the lowest overall level since 1992.

71,000 MW: ERCOT Set Another New Peak Demand Record

Another year brought another new peak electricity demand record for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). 

In August, ERCOT — which manages three-fourths of the Lone Star State’s electricity grid — experienced record-breaking demand three times in one week, with electricity use in the ERCOT market exceeding 71,000 megawatts (MW) in system-wide hourly peak demand. On August 11, 2016, ERCOT’s demand hit 71,043 MW between 3 and 4 p.m. and then topped out at 71,197 MW between 4 and 5 p.m. 

3rd Largest: Energy Efficiency is Now the Third Largest Power Resource in the U.S.

For decades, energy efficiency has played an important role in ensuring reliable and affordable power for customers. Now, according to a recent report released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), it’s the third largest resource in the U.S. power sector. 

The analysis examined total energy savings produced last year across three important areas: utility sector energy efficiency programs, appliance efficiency standards and building energy codes. The results were staggering: since 1990, energy efficiency has saved consumers a whopping $90 billion annually on their electric bills, which is underscored by the fact that overall electricity demand has flattened while the U.S. economy has grown. Last year, energy efficiency accounted for 18 percent of U.S. electricity generation, only trailing natural gas (27 percent) and coal (27 percent). 

6.4 Billion: Total Number of Connected Things Used Worldwide

The internet of things (IoT) continues to expand. Gartner forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things are in use worldwide in 2016, up 30 percent from 2015 and with 5.5 million new things being connected every day. They estimate the total number of connected things will reach 20.8 billion by 2020.

With more connected things, businesses have the ability to access more energy, equipment and operational insights. Technologies like Panoramic Power — which analyzes 8 billion data points per month and counting – offer larger businesses a device-level energy management solution, which allows operators to see how they can become more energy efficient, how their equipment is functioning and how they can improve their overall business operations.

$800 Million: Amount Pennsylvanians Saved Last Year Thanks to Energy Choice

Electricity competition has given Pennsylvanians cheaper, cleaner and more reliable electricity for decades. A study conducted by the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania found that the breakup of electric utility monopolies and a competitive market structure saved Keystone State consumers more than $800 million last year alone.

Specifically, cheap natural gas and a competitive system have allowed customers to access significant savings. In 1996, the average retail price for electricity in Pennsylvania was 15 percent higher than the national average. Last year, the average price was 0.1 percent below the national average. For businesses in Pennsylvania, that has translated to retail electricity rates lower than utility service default rates. 

Stay tuned to the Direct Energy Business Blog in the coming weeks as we continue to shed light on some the year's top energy developments. 

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Posted: December 06, 2016