7th NRDC Annual Energy Report: Clean Opportunities and Dirty Challenges, Emissions Rising

WASHINGTON  – The United States is making significant clean energy advances, and well over half of the population now lives in states with climate pollution reduction targets, but the expansion of fracked gas and oil infrastructure threatens to derail America’s climate progress by locking in the use of fossil fuels, according to the 7th Annual Energy Report published by the Natural Resources Defense Council today.

“The latest U.S. energy trends highlight both the clean energy-sector opportunities and the challenges facing America,” said report author Amanda Levin, a policy analyst with NRDC’s Climate and Clean Energy Program. “Solar and wind energy are thriving, coal-fired generation has sunk to a four-decade low, electric vehicles and grid energy storage are emerging as cleaner mainstream options, and 25 states now have greenhouse gas-reduction targets.”

However, NRDC’s seventh annual energy report, Clean Energy Opportunities and Dirty Energy Challenges, also shows that oil and gas are on the rise – along with their emissions.

 “For the first time in five years, U.S. climate-warming emissions rose last year and reached an all-time high worldwide -- even as the financial and environmental costs of climate inaction are becoming increasingly more evident,” Levin said. “This is absolutely the worst time for the United States to be abandoning its climate leadership by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement.”

“Fortunately, we have most, if not all, of the tools needed to affordably combat the climate crisis--like energy efficiency, clean and renewable electricity, and cleaner electric alternatives to gas-guzzling vehicles and gas-heated homes and offices. We just need the political will.”

The report also shows the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) energy-sector projections of 10 years ago were substantially off the mark. For example, wind and solar generation capacity is four times greater; coal consumption is 47 percent lower; oil production is 69 percent higher; and gas consumption is 27 percent more than predicted a decade ago.

Levin said while there is still much to do, the latest numbers show the United States is making progress in many clean energy arenas. More than 200 million Americans – or over 60 percent of the population – live in an area with a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target (25 states, D.C., and Puerto Rico).

“The costs of clean energy continue to fall rapidly. Wind and solar already outcompete coal power on costs and are likely to put similar economic pressure on natural gas within the next decade and a half,” Levin said.

Other top findings of the report, which examines energy trends from 2018 and part of 2019:

  • Among the 25 states with GHG targets, six—plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico—and nine large utilities are now committed to 100 percent carbon-free power no later than 2050, meaning more than 44.5 million U.S. homes and businesses are in a state or utility service area committed to 100 percent clean electricity. 
  • Almost a quarter of the Fortune 500 companies are involved in at least one major climate initiative; another 565 businesses have adopted or committed to adopting GHG emissions-reduction targets, and more than 150 additional businesses have pledged to transition to 100 percent renewable power.
  • U.S. utilities invested $8 billion in energy efficiency programs, saving more electricity than produced annually by eight coal-fired power plants.
  • Electric vehicle sales were up 82 percent from the previous year.
  • Despite energy efficiency standard setbacks at the federal level like delays and rollbacks, local governments have stepped up and the efficiency industry added 76,000 new jobs last year, meaning 2.35 million Americans now work in the sector and clean energy jobs outnumber those in the fossil fuel industry by 3 to 1.

A blog by report author Amanda Levin is posted here. NRDC’s previous annual energy reports can be found here.


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org



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