2024 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook shows how clean energy transition is thriving

April 23, 2024
Developed annually by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and BloombergNEF, the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook tracks energy market and policy trends in the United States, examining how clean energy sectors performed in 2023 and over the past decade.  

Developed annually by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and BloombergNEF, the Sustainable Energy in America Factbook tracks energy market and policy trends in the United States, examining how clean energy sectors performed in 2023 and over the past decade.

In 2023, U.S. clean energy sectors proved resilient, as both mature and emerging decarbonization industries grew despite interest rate and supply chain difficulties. A suite of federal policies boosted the clean energy transition, providing clear signals to the market that resulted in record levels of investment and deployment.

That’s one of the many key takeaways from the Factbook. In its latest edition, the 2024 Factbook covers the progress of the energy efficiency, natural gas, and renewable energy sectors, providing crucial data and insights.

Let’s highlight the top clean energy trends from 2023:

1. Strong federal policies support the growth of clean energy industries, attracting record levels of investment and increasing America’s competitiveness.

The clean energy revolution has become more than just a buzzword – it is now deeply embedded in the fabric of the U.S economy. In the wake of the groundbreaking Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed in August 2022, the United States saw market growth in more mature clean energy technologies as well as emerging decarbonization solutions.

Plans for 104 manufacturing facilities were announced, representing $123 billion in investments. These included 34 new battery and 34 new solar facilities. Electric vehicle sales surged 50 percent to nearly 1.46 million vehicles sold. In addition, 42 gigawatts of new renewable power-generating capacity were added to the U.S. grid.

A record-shattering $303 billion in energy transition financing was deployed in the United States, and global levels soared to $1.7 trillion. The IRA also awakened investments in emerging sectors, including hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, renewable natural gas, and sustainable aviation fuel, which all saw notable growth in 2023.

Why it matters

2023 witnessed a resilient surge in clean energy markets, defying many obstacles. Despite headwinds like higher interest rates and supply chain difficulties, as well as challenges presented by interconnection queues and lengthy permitting processes, the clean energy transition stood tall, revealing the indispensable role of federal policies.

BCSE believes that the IRA-led investments play a pivotal role in securing America’s economic competitiveness and reinforcing its leadership position in the global market. The surge in energy transition financing during 2023, both within the U.S. and on a global scale, is a clear indicator that clean energy is big business.

2. Low and zero-carbon technology provides the majority of U.S. electricity.

In 2023, BCSE played a crucial role in shaping the U.S energy landscape. Their diversified energy portfolio of energy efficiency, natural gas and renewable energy demonstrated their importance as the foundation of the U.S. energy transition. There was also a shift in the electricity mix. Natural gas and renewable energy jointly met at 66 percent of electricity demand in 2023, up from 41 percent a decade ago.

Meanwhile, coal’s contribution to power generation slid to 16 percent in 2023 – its lowest ever – and was largely replaced by natural gas. This dynamic portfolio of low- and zero-carbon resources is not only reducing power sector emissions but is also offering the flexibility needed to reliably manage the electricity grid.

Why it matters

The U.S. energy landscape has undergone significant transformation, pivoting towards cleaner resources and becoming more energy efficient. As we embrace this transition, the energy costs of U.S. consumers have remained relatively low and stable. In 2023, energy spending accounted for 4.2 percent of total U.S. personal consumption expenditures, marking a 0.6 percent decline from the previous year.

The benefits of the energy transition, however, are not necessarily equally distributed across the diversity of U.S. communities and regions. Enter the IRA, a critical piece of legislation designed to address these disparities, including provisions that focus investment and aim to lower costs in underserved and low-income communities.

3. U.S. energy productivity increased by 3.8% in 2023.

The clean energy transition is bolstered by ongoing investments in energy efficiency. Energy productivity – a measure of economic output per unit of energy consumed in the United States – is an essential metric to grade our country’s competitiveness in the global market. In 2023, the U.S.’ energy productivity grew by 3.8 percent, as the economy expanded by 2.4 percent and primary energy consumption slowed by 1.4 percent.

U.S. energy productivity has grown 30.6 percent over the past decade and has improved by an astounding 101 percent since 1990. This shows that the long-term trend of the United States using energy more efficiently is making the U.S. more competitive.

Why it matters

The three-decade-long upward trajectory of U.S. energy productivity showcases the positive return on public and private sector investments in energy efficiency. The cycle of funding leading to more clean energy work, which in turn generates more funds, forms a crucial positive feedback loop in the transition towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy system.

This not only contributes to economic growth but also helps reduce environmental impacts associated with energy production and consumption. Energy efficiency is an essential tool in the toolbox needed to meet U.S. decarbonization goals.

4. U.S. greenhouse gas emissions dropped in 2023, but the U.S. saw the most extreme weather events on record.

The United States experienced 28 extreme weather events in 2023, surpassing all previous records.

Climate change is exacerbating the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events across the United States. Rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and more frequent and severe storms pose significant challenges to the resilience of the energy infrastructure. Without proactive measures, these events are likely to become more frequent and destructive in the future.

The result in these changes wreaked havoc, resulting in nearly $93 billion in damages in 2023. The U.S. energy system is critical infrastructure that needs immediate attention to avoid the negative consequences of extreme weather and natural disasters. Resiliency is a key concern of communities and consumers – as evidenced by the roughly 2.8 gigawatts of microgrids that have been brought online since 2012.

In 2023, U.S. emissions declined for the first time since 2020, falling 1.8 percent to a level comparable to 1987. Emissions fell across all sectors except for transport. In fact, 2023 emissions were 16 percent below 2005 levels. However, the pace of reductions is not where it needs to be – 50 to 52 percent reductions are needed to meet the U.S. goal under the Paris Agreement.

Why it matters

The bulk of emission reductions in the power sector to date can be attributed to coal being displaced by natural gas.

Although it is a good sign that U.S. emissions have returned to their downward trajectory, the pace of reductions is not where it needs to be if the U.S. is to meet its current goal under the Paris Agreement to reduce economy-wide emissions 50-52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. In 2023, U.S. emissions were down 16 percent over 2005 levels.

Climate-related disasters place undue strains on public coffers and community well-being. The U.S. energy system is critical infrastructure that needs immediate attention to avoid the negative consequences of extreme weather and natural disasters.

On the horizon

U.S. energy infrastructure needs reform of regulatory timelines and processes.

As of January 2024, more than 1,100 GW of projects were undergoing interconnection studies in the seven U.S. independent system operators.

The U.S. has emerged as a global leader in power sector digitalization.

The U.S. accounted for 40 percent, or 81 out of 206, of the total digital projects and partnerships in the global power sector in 2023. 

Seasonal energy storage must expand for the U.S. to adapt to climate change.

 As the U.S. experiences more high heat and high cooling days, the role of energy storage will grow.

The 2024 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook is free to download at bcse.org/factbook. Dive deeper into the facts by checking out the Executive Summary, Key Trends, and additional Clean Energy Industry Resources.

For the latest Minnesota-specific facts, stay tuned for Clean Energy Economy MN’s publication of the 2024 Minnesota Energy Factsheet on April 30.

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