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Shining Star of US Energy Economy: Energy Efficiency

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The state of the US energy economy has never been better, according to a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. One key finding: Energy efficiency has contributed more to meeting America’s needs than all other resources combined.

NRDC’s first annual Energy and Environment Report, America’s (Amazingly) Good Energy News, analyzes new government data that shows total US energy use in 2012 was below the 1999 level even though the economy grew by more than 25 percent (adjusted for inflation) during that period.

As a result of national energy efficiency measures, factories and businesses are producing substantially more products and value with less energy, and the cost of all energy services (from lighting to refrigeration) also has decreased, according to NRDC.

The report’s major findings:

ENERGY EFFICIENCY – Energy efficiency standards and financial incentives, underwritten mostly by the utility industry, have dramatically reduced both the energy intensity and costs of energy.

ELECTRICITY: Since 2000, for the first time in modern history, the rate of growth in electricity use has dropped well below the rate of population growth.

NATURAL GAS: While natural gas increased its market share to above 30 percent of electricity generation in 2012, the trend is highly sensitive to volatile commodity prices and therefore unsteady.

NUCLEAR: US nuclear generation has flattened, with market share dropping below 19 percent of total electric generation in 2012, and total nuclear power production was down almost 5 percent from its peak five years earlier.

RENEWABLE ENERGY: Wind power led all competitors – both renewables and fossil fuels – in terms of new generating capacity installed over the course of 2012 and solar power also is surging; but even more impressive was the 24-fold increase in wind-produced electricity from 2000 to 2012.

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