Midwest Energy News:
Consumers have seen flat or declining energy costs as renewable energy becomes a greater part of the energy mix of Minnesota and the nation.
That’s one of the findings in the annual 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance in partnership with the Business Council for Sustainable Energy.
The report points out that in the United States, renewable energy, greater energy efficiency and low natural gas and gasoline prices have combined to drive down energy costs – as a percent of total household spending – to its lowest level in decades, according to business council president Lisa Jacobson.
Household spending in 2016 represented 3.9 percent of household expenditures, the first time the figure dropped below 4 percent ever, based on data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, she said.
The bureau began reporting on energy in 1959. “Consumers have never paid less of their household family income for energy, ever, on record,” Jacobson said. “It’s amazing.”
The national movement toward clean energy continues, she said, and Minnesota’s leadership in that area remains, especially in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
The investments in clean energy made by utilities does not seem to have an impact on energy prices, contradicting dire predictions made by some opponents of clean energy policy in the past.
“What we can say looking at data is that we’ve been making significant investments nationally, and so has Minnesota, and it has been beneficial to consumers and businesses,” Jacobson said.
The report points to another continuing trend – the decoupling of energy consumption from a growing economy. Since 2007 the national economy has grown by 12 percent while energy demand has fallen by 3.6 percent, she said.
Prices haven’t increased, either. Consumers across the nation actually pay four percent less per kilowatt hour for electricity today than they did in 2007 after taking into account inflation, the report said.
Not any one factor takes credit for the favorable story of falling consumption and prices. “It’s the combination of energy efficiency, renewables, natural gas” along with cheap gasoline and fuel efficient vehicles, Jacobson said. “You won’t have gotten (this result) if there hadn’t been this mix.”