Last updated: April 2020
Clean energy has continued to make rapid progress globally and in the U.S. The year 2019 saw renewable energy rise to 18 percent of all electricity consumed in the U.S. Power prices from renewables continue to reach new lows and in many places are already competitive with or cheaper than fossil fuels. And the expected growth in the electric vehicle market is threatening to upend the oil industry’s stronghold on transportation. Below, find the latest facts and figures that show just how fast clean energy is growing.
Renewable energy capacity continues to increase and record levels of money are being invested.
- Renewable energy accounted for 72 percent of all new power capacity globally in 2019. Solar and wind contributed 90 percent of the total renewable capacity added. (IRENA)
- Global renewable energy investment totaled over $282 billion in 2019, up 1% from 2018. China was again the biggest investor in renewables at over $83 billion. The U.S. was again the second-largest investor with over $55 billion, up 28% from 2018. (BloombergNEF)
- By 2050, 77% of the over $13 trillion the world will spend on new power generation will be invested in renewables. (BloombergNEF)
- In the U.S., renewable generation beat out coal generation for the first time on a quarterly basis in Q1 2020, and as of April 2018, total available installed generating capacity of all renewable energy technologies surpassed that of coal in the U.S. for the first time, driven heavily by the rise of solar and wind. (EIA, FERC)
Clean energy is an engine for job growth.
- At the end of 2019, nearly 3.4 million Americans worked in clean energy in the U.S.. That’s more than the number of people employed as registered nurses, and just shy of those working as school teachers. (2020 US Energy & Employment Report)
- Wind technicians and solar installers are the fastest-growing jobs in the country. (BLS)
- The energy efficiency sector continued to produce the most new jobs of any energy sector in the U.S. in 2019 – 54,000 – with 2.38 million jobs in total. (2020 US Energy & Employment Report)
- Over the last five years, the clean energy industry has added jobs 70 percent faster than the overall economy. (E2)
- Globally, the renewable energy industry employed 11 million people at the end of 2018. With 3.6 million people, solar PV is the largest supporter of jobs in the renewable energy industry. (IRENA)
The price of renewables continues to drop drastically.
- In the last two years, projects that pair renewables with large-scale batteries have become economically viable. In the U.S., solar PV + storage projects have under-bid national gas-fired plants to deliver power thanks to a 77% drop in the price of typical PV module and an 87% decline in battery pack prices. (2020 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook)
- Both building and operating new renewable energy plants is in some cases already cheaper than just operating or building conventional plants. (Lazard)
- Nearly three-quarters of U.S. coal plants are now more expensive to run than building new local renewable energy, and the number will rise to 86% by 2025. (Energy Innovation)
- Solar PV and onshore wind are now the cheapest sources of new generation for at least two-thirds of the global population. (BloombergNEF)
The electric vehicle industry is poised for dramatic growth.
- Automakers are increasingly investing in electric vehicles and have committed over $350 billion to bring over 100 new electric cars, trucks and SUVs to market by 2022. (Atlas EV Hub)
- Electric vehicles will account for 57 percent of new passenger vehicle sales by 2040. (BloombergNEF)
- The price of lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars and trucks has plummeted 87% since 2010. (BloombergNEF)
- Between 2016 and 2019, U.S. jobs producing electric vehicle and hybrid-electric vehicles grew nearly 23 percent, with all-electric vehicle jobs adding the most jobs, at 36,000, of any alternatively-fueled vehicle. (2020 US Energy & Employment Five-Year Trends Report)
Coal has been declining rapidly over the last decade, and continues to do so.
- In 2020, nearly half of the global coal fleet will be unprofitable. (Carbon Tracker)
- More than half the coal plants in the U.S. – 306 of them – have closed or are slated to close. (Sierra Club)
- Almost all utility-scale power plants that retired in the U.S. in the last decade have been powered by fossil fuels, with coal accounting for almost half of retirements. (EIA)
- Annual U.S. coal production hit its lowest level in modern history in 2019, with coal mining jobs reaching a new low at the end of the year. (S&P Global)
The continued growth of clean energy and resulting drop in fossil fuel emissions and pollutants has widespread health benefits.
- Air pollution, including from transportation and power generation, reduced life expectancy and was responsible for over 30,000 U.S. deaths between 1999 and 2015. (Imperial College London and the Center for Air, Climate and Energy Solutions at Carnegie Mellon University study)
- Fossil fuel emissions cause nearly $5 billion in U.S. medical costs associated with premature births. (New York University School of Medicine study)
- Continued reliance on coal will cost 52,000 American lives per year. (Michigan Technological University study)