Amazingly Good Energy News Reaffirmed

In each of the last three years, NRDC has compiled extensive evidence of an accelerating clean energy transition across the United States. Bloomberg's New Energy Finance (NEF) weighed in this week with its own Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, which draws on new data for the year 2015 to reinforce NRDC's findings and adds some important new evidence on the affordability of the transition.

In the report, NEF begins by pointing out that U.S. power sector emissions of carbon dioxide dropped in 2015 to "their lowest annual level since the mid-1990s," even as retail electricity prices charged to consumers continued a downward trend. In fact, the average cost of a kilowatt-hour, adjusted for inflation, is down almost 6 percent since 2008 - and fell by 1.3 percent last year compared to 2014. That's really good news for consumers, businesses, industry, and agriculture. And it shows that cutting pollution doesn't have to increase electricity costs.

Meanwhile, U.S. industrial electricity rates are now less than half those of Germany and China, and even India's industrial power costs are more than 50 percent higher than ours. Of course, the most successful economies will be those that minimize customers' utility bills, not just their electricity rates, and there energy efficiency has a crucial role to play, as NEF recognizes.

NEF assigns much of the credit for our recent environmental and economic progress to energy efficiency improvements: "The U.S. economy has now grown by 10 percent since 2007, while energy consumption has fallen by 2.4 percent." Electricity use is flat since 2007, and NEF rightly attributes that largely to growth in utilities' energy efficiency investments and the tightening of efficiency standards for appliances, equipment and buildings.

The report is also notable for a wealth of material on state-by-state clean energy progress, and on the surging contributions of renewable energy sources.

For anyone who thinks economic growth and environmental progress are incompatible, or that continued reductions in carbon dioxide emissions can only come at a painful cost, this week's Sustainable Energy in America report is a sweeping and convincing rebuttal.

About the Authors

Ralph Cavanagh

Codirector, Energy program

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