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Top 10 Energy Numbers of 2020

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It’s no secret that 2020 has been a year unlike any other. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented global public health crisis and economic turmoil for households and businesses around the world. 

The energy industry has been no exception. The COVID-19 lockdowns and reduced economic activity have had a significant impact on both energy demand and prices.  

To help unpack this turbulent year in energy, we’ve rounded up some of the biggest and most-telling energy statistics from 2020. 

1) Global energy consumption drops five percent.   

In 2019, U.S. energy consumption hit its highest level ever at 101.2 quadrillion British thermal units (BTU). 

It was a much different story in 2020. Globally, energy consumption fell an estimated five percent due to warmer winter temperatures, COVID-19 lockdown measures and reduced economic activity. In the U.S., electricity consumption fell four percent while natural gas consumption averaged 83.4 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d), a two percent decline from 2019.  

Looking forward, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that U.S. electricity consumption will bounce back about 1.3 percent in 2021 while natural gas consumption will continue to decline another five percent due to increased natural gas prices and reduced demand from the U.S. power sector. 


2) U.S. natural gas prices fall to a 20-year low. 

COVID-19 also led to a topsy-turvy year for energy prices.  

One bellwether for U.S. energy prices is the Henry Hub spot price, which serves as a benchmark for all U.S. natural gas prices. In June, the Henry Hub spot price dropped to $1.63 per million British thermal units (MMBtu) – the lowest level in twenty years

While natural gas prices averaged $1.81/MMBtu in the first half of 2020, they significantly rebounded to average $2.61/MMBtu in November. The EIA now forecasts that Henry Hub spot prices will average $3.10/MMBtu in January 2021. 

We recently caught up with Direct Energy Business president John Schultz to get his take on the year’s rollercoaster ride for energy prices in 2020, which you can watch here


3) Global greenhouse gas emissions plummet by seven percent.  

The global disruption in energy consumption also brought a corresponding and precipitous drop in greenhouse gas emissions.  

Global greenhouse gas emissions fell by about 2.4 billion tons in 2020 – a seven percent drop from 2019 and the largest relative decline since World War II. In the U.S., energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell by 11 percent, which was largely attributable to coal plant shutdowns and the broader economic impacts of COVID-19.  

As the carbon reductions largely occurred in the first few months of 2020, experts expect that emissions will likely rebound in 2021, barring any aggressive shifts to renewable energy.   


4) President-elect Biden targets 100 percent carbon-free power generation.  

While he has not yet assumed office, President-elect Joe Biden’s win in 2020 marks the beginning of a dramatic shift in the U.S. energy landscape. 

Biden ran on an ambitious and progressive policy platform, proposing more than $2 trillion in clean energy, infrastructure and community development investments. While his policy agenda may be handcuffed without a shift in party control of the U.S. Senate, there are a number of executive actions that he will pursue on day one of his presidency. 

As we have written, Biden will likely prioritize cutting carbon emissions by rejoining the landmark Paris Climate Agreement – which aims to halt the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial levels) – and targeting 100 percent clean electricity by 2035


5) U.S. installs a record 23 gigawatts (GW) of wind capacity.

Despite all of the economic and logistical challenges presented by COVID-19, it was a banner year for U.S. wind power development. 

In the third quarter of 2020, 2,000 megawatts (MW) of new wind capacity were brought online, setting the stage for a record year in U.S. wind installations. The EIA now projects that the U.S. will add 23 gigawatts (GW) of wind turbine generating capacity in 2020, which far exceeds the previous record of 13.2 GW brought online in 2012. 

In addition to wind turbine installations soaring to new heights, more than 11 gigawatts of solar power were added in the first nine months of 2020, the most for the period of any year. 

Wind power’s share of U.S. electricity generation is set to top 10 percent in 2021.


6) More than 170 U.S. cities commit to 100 percent clean energy. 

While President-elect Biden has proposed that the U.S. run on carbon-free electricity by 2035, a number of cities and states have already committed to similar targets.  

More than 170 U.S. cities and eight states – including New York, Virginia and California – have committed to clean and renewable energy for electricity by 2035 and for all energy sectors by 2050. Altogether, those cities and states represent the communities of more than 100 million people.  

These types of commitments are one of the five factors that have directly driven the rise of renewable energy across the United States. 


7) Sustainability goes mainstream with more than two-thirds of U.S. companies.   

It’s not just cities and states that are leading the way with sustainability and clean energy – businesses are also a major driving force.  

A recent study found that two-thirds of the Russell 1000 – which represents the top 1,000 U.S. companies by market capitalization – published sustainability reports in the past year, which is a dramatic 86 percent increase over 2018. Furthermore, a majority of Fortune 500 companies have now publicly committed to transition to 100 percent renewable energy as part of the growing, international RE100 initiative

As companies continue to put sustainability and clean energy at the heart of their business operations, it is more important than ever for businesses to partner with a reliable energy provider that can help shape its sustainability story


8) Global electric vehicle sales surpass 2.1 million. 

A growing sustainability play for both homes and businesses is electric vehicles (EV). 

Global EV sales topped a whopping 2.1 million vehicles last year, with 326,000 EVs sold in the U.S. Despite the growth in sales, EVs still only account for about two percent of total U.S. vehicle sales. 

However, with concerted policy efforts to address climate change, improved technology and expanded charging infrastructure, EV adoption is expected to increase dramatically – by more than 70 percent – in 2021. 


9) U.S. LNG exports near 10 billion cubic feet/day.

Four short years ago, U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports were averaging just 0.5 Bcf/d.  

Fast forward to November 2020, U.S. LNG exports have cruised to a new monthly record 9.4 Bcf/d. Despite reduced and canceled shipments throughout the summer months of 2020 from declining global natural gas demand due to COVID-19, U.S. LNG exports have rebounded significantly with cold winter forecasts in parts of Asia and Europe.  

Looking forward, the EIA expects annual U.S. LNG exports will increase 30 percent in 2021. 


10) 2020 is one of the three warmest years ever recorded. 

Despite some positive developments with clean energy growth and emissions reductions in 2020, the climate crisis continued to grow as extreme heat, historic wildfires and a record hurricane season plagued parts of the U.S. and world.    

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported that 2020 will finish as one of the top three hottest years on record. Each of the six warmest years on record have occurred since 2015.    

The global temperature in 2020 was about 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels and slightly higher than 2019. 

Stay tuned for more on the blog as we continue to explore what’s on the horizon for 2021. 

Posted: December 17, 2020