The Dallas Morning News

Americans power down on electricit­y

Boost in energy efficiency, low prices lead to lower bills

- Jim Efstathiou Jr., Bloomberg News

Americans are spending the least of their paychecks on electricit­y in at least 58 years as gains in energy efficiency leave more for food, vacations and gadgets.

Consumer spending on electricit­y fell to 1.3 percent of personal consumptio­n in 2017, the lowest in records dating to 1959, according to a report Thursday from Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainabl­e Energy. That’s down from a peak of 2.3 percent in 1982.

The savings come amid a modest increase in retail power prices last year and higher spending on gasoline and other motor fuels. Spending on natural gas rose slightly last year to 0.4 percent of personal consumptio­n, down from 1.3 percent in 1983.

The entire U.S. economy is becoming more energy efficient as a long-term shift away from manufactur­ing means the same amount of energy is now delivering more to GDP.

“More efficient devices mean that less energy is consumed and that helps as well to drive down the usage over the long term,” said Rachel Luo, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst who contribute­d to the report.

As renewables scale up, the emissions blamed for global warming have gone down. Greenhouse gas emissions fell 1.4 percent in 2017 to the lowest since 1991. Power-sector pollution is 28 percent below the 2005 peak, putting the U.S. 4 percentage points away from targets in the Clean Power Plan, a policy enacted under President Barack Obama that President Donald Trump is working to repeal.

And while Trump also withdrew from the Paris Agreement, emissions cuts in power production have helped bring the U.S. halfway to its goal under the accord.

“All this has happened during a year of change for sustainabl­e energy policy, which in many ways has been challengin­g,” Luo said Thursday in Washington at a briefing on the report.

Meanwhile, power prices in the U.S. were the secondlowe­st among seven countries analyzed in the report, with Canada sporting cheaper electricit­y.

When it comes to power prices, not all states are equal. Residentia­l users in Hawaii paid 27.5 cents per kilowatt hour for electricit­y in 2016, the highest in the U.S. and more than twice the national average, according to the U.S. Energy Informatio­n Administra­tion. Louisiana enjoyed the lowest rates at 9.3 cents per kilowatt hour.

The report also found:

■ Renewable energy rose to 18 percent of the electricit­y mix in 2017, up from 15 percent the prior year.

■ There were 18.4 gigawatts of renewable energy added in 2017, compared with a record 22.7 gigawatts in 2016.

■ Gas generation fell by 8.1 percent, bringing its total share of the electricit­y mix down to 32 percent from 34 percent.

■ Natural gas remained the top producer of U.S. power.

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