Saturday, December 31, 2011

Counting Down Biggest Energy & Environment Facts of 2011

The Countdown of the 10 Biggest Energy and Environment Facts of 2011 began on friday (see earlier posting) and now resumes at Number 5:

5. World investment in renewable energy plants exceeded investment in fossil fuel plants, according to calculations performed by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and announced on November 25, 2011.  Renewable generation investments amounted to $187 billion compared to $157 billion.  These figures were for global investment during 2010, but I count it as a 2011 Fact because it was documented less than 2 months ago.  It is also a stunning fact with major implications for the future.

4. The EPA finalized both the Cross State Air Pollution Rule and the Air Toxics Rule that will prevent 34,000 deaths per year from power plant pollution.  While both rules are now administratively complete, litigation has begun already concerning the Cross State Air Pollution Rule and will soon begin against the Air Toxics Rule.  Gas, coal plants with modern pollution controls, nuclear, and renewable facilities that comprise 90% of US generation capacity meet the rules.  But about 100,000 megawatts of mainly old and mostly smaller coal-fired units do not.  The rules will lead to dramatic reductions in mercury, acid gases, soot, acid rain pollution, and smog-forming pollutants.

3. The Energy Efficiency Boom picked up speed, with total US energy consumption back to 2000 levels.  Oil demand in 2011 is about 7% below 2010 levels; gasoline demand is down about 5% from 2011.  Electricity demand will barely increase in 2011 and is projected to actually decline in 2012 by EIA.  The North American Electricity Reliability Corporation forecasted the lowest levels of electricity increases ever in its 2011 Long-term electricity reliability study.  More fuel efficient cars; more energy efficient appliances, lighting, buildings; rising demand response resources on the electricity grid; and increasing cogeneration are just some of the reasons why energy demand is flattening. There is a structural change in the demand side of the US energy market. Flattening energy demand or at least declining rates of increases in energy demand is a big story of 2011.

2. The USA installed between 1,700 and 2,000 megawatts of solar during 2011, and new solar power may have exceeded new coal. The 2011 US solar deployment represented more than a 100% increase over the 2010 number and is a new record that likely will be broken again in 2012. The most stunning part of the solar boom is the rapidly falling installed solar prices. Utility scale solar projects now cost $3.45 per watt and the lowest price hit an incredible $2.90 per watt. Even residential rooftop solar fell to the high $4 per watt range in some parts of the country. All those prices are before any tax credits or other available incentives. The grid parity price varies across America, with it being highest in Hawaii and lowest in Idaho, but solar at $2 to $2.50 per watt will be cheaper than grid power in most parts of America. The US 2011 solar installations represents about 10% of the global approximately 20,000 megawatt world solar market.The sun itself is the limit on solar power's future.

On monday, I will post the 2011 Number 1 Energy and Environment Fact. I wish everyone a happy, healthy 2012!


  1. John you're going to make us wait till Monday for the #1 Energy and Environment fact of 2011? The suspense is killing me. Actually I think I might know what it is, its wind power isn't it. The buildout of wind power in the US has been huge in the last 5 years. Since 2007 we have installed at least 5 gigawatts of wind power every year and when the numbers are in for 2011 it will probably be another year of over 5 gigawatts of wind power.

  2. Fred,
    Good nomination. Not it. Wind has had another big year as you said. It will be a top 3 year for US new build wind. Perhaps it should have been on the list. Happy 2012.