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Top 10 Most Important Energy Numbers of 2019

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It has been quite a decade for the energy industry. From the natural gas revolution to coal retirements and the rise of renewable energy, the U.S. energy landscape has been forever changed by developments over the past ten years.

To help close out this year – and decade – in energy, we’ve compiled some of the most-telling and noteworthy energy statistics. Here are the 10 most important energy numbers from 2019:

 

1) U.S. energy consumption hits an all-time high

U.S. energy use has risen to its highest level ever: 101.2 quadrillion British thermal units (BTU), also referred to as “quads.” 

According to research produced earlier this year by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the nation’s total energy consumption in 2018 – which includes the residential, commercial, industrial, transportation sectors as well as “rejected” energy – toppled the previous mark of 101 quads set back in 2007.  

Notably, more than half of all that energy use (about 68 quads) was wasted energy, mostly in the form of wasted heat.

 

2) Energy efficiency initiatives save nearly one-quarter of U.S. energy consumption

While U.S. energy use (and waste) has been at an all-time high, energy efficiency has continued to play a pivotal role in tamping down national consumption.  

Research released earlier this year by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that major energy efficiency initiatives cut U.S. energy use by a whopping 20 percent in 2017. According to ACEEE, six types of energy efficiency policies or programs cut U.S. energy consumption by a tune of 25 quads: vehicle fuel economy standards, appliance and equipment efficiency standards, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s ENERGY STAR® program, utility sector energy efficiency programs, federal research and development, and building codes.

To put that figure into perspective, it’s more energy than the three most populous U.S. states combined: California, Texas and Florida.  

 

3) Another year, another peak demand record in Texas

It has become somewhat of an annual occurrence: another hot summer day drives record peak demand on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)’s system. 

On Monday, August 12, ERCOT – which operates about three-fourths of the Lone Star State’s electricity grid – reported that system-wide demand climbed to a new all-time record of 74,531 megawatts (MW) between 4:00 and 5:00 pm and shattered the previous mark of 73,308 MW set on July 19, 2018. 

Looking forward, ERCOT expects to be able to manage future increases in system peak demand, thanks to added renewable and natural gas-fired generation resources.

 

4) U.S. installed capacity of onshore wind continues to soar

The U.S. continues to harness a seemingly infinite supply of wind energy. 

In September, the total installed capacity of U.S. onshore wind projects topped 100 gigawatts (GW). Notably, more than half of that wind capacity was installed since 2012.  

The growth in installed wind capacity has largely taken place along the country’s “wind corridor.” More than one-quarter of all capacity has been installed in Texas (about 27 GW), followed by Iowa in a distant second (9 GW) and Oklahoma in third place (8 GW). The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) anticipates installed wind capacity to climb by about 20 percent through 2020.

 

5) Total number of U.S. solar installations doubled in three short years

Wind power was not the only renewable energy resource to have a banner year in 2019. 

In May, the U.S. surpassed 2 million total solar PV installations, which is the energy equivalent of powering more than 12 million U.S. homes. Even more impressive, the U.S. has now doubled the total number of solar installations in three years.  

According to Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, the rapid solar growth is expected to continue with 3 million installations by 2021, 4 million installations by 2023 and, by 2024, an average of one solar system will be installed per minute.  

 

6) The world’s most influential companies publicly committed to 100% renewable electricity

As demonstrated by the exponential growth in wind and solar installations, renewable energy is no longer a niche market. In fact, with corporate buyers, renewable energy has become completely mainstream. 

Globally, 221 of the world’s most influential companies – and counting – have now pledged to 100 percent renewable energy as part of the increasingly popular RE100 initiative.  More than half of all Fortune 500 companies have committed to some type of emissions or renewable energy target. And 1,700 U.S. companies are now reporting their energy consumption through the EPA’s Green Power Partnership, which requires organizations to power their facilities with green energy.   

 

7) U.S. summer natural gas prices fall to the lowest level since 1998

This past summer, the Henry Hub natural gas spot price – which serves as a national bellwether for natural gas prices – averaged around $2.37 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) for June, July and August. That price is about 55 cents/MMBtu lower than one year ago and marks the lowest summer average since 1998. 

What drove the lower summer natural gas prices? By and large, it was mild summer weather that contributed to lower demand. Looking ahead, the EIA projects natural gas prices will slightly rebound in 2020, averaging $2.77/MMBtu.  

 

8) U.S. becomes a monthly net exporter of petroleum

With U.S. energy exports continuing to grow, the nation became a monthly net exporter of crude oil and petroleum products for the first time ever. 

During the first half of 2019, U.S. crude oil exports averaged an astounding 2.9 million b/d – an increase of nearly one million barrels over the first half of 2018. In September, the U.S. became a monthly net exporter when it exported about 90,000 more barrels per day (b/d) than it imported from other countries. 

The gradual shift from energy importer to exporter underscores a number of important developments, including increased energy production, low domestic prices and growth in renewable energy resources. The EIA expects U.S. net exports will average about 751,000 b/d in 2020, which would make the U.S. an annual exporter for the first time ever.  

 

9) Global greenhouse gas emissions hit another record high

While the world becomes increasing concerned with climate change, global carbon emissions continue to grow. 

In 2019, carbon dioxide emissions reached 36.8 billion tons, which is about 0.6 percent higher than last year. Furthermore, atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide grew to almost 408 parts per million in 2018 and continued to rise this year.

While that may paint a grim picture, a silver lining may be found in the fact that total U.S. emissions are estimated to have dropped 1.7 percent this year . The decline in emissions is largely attributable to renewable energy growth, such as wind and solar, which have further displaced coal-fired generation.  

 

10) The world’s warmest decade on record finishes about 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels

As global emissions climbed in 2019, so, too, did the average global temperature. 

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) estimates that the average global temperature in 2019 (from January to October) was 1.1 degrees Celsius – or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit – higher than pre-industrial levels. 2019 is set to finish as one of the three hottest years on record and this past decade will likely be the warmest ever recorded.  

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Posted: December 19, 2019

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