by Barry Fischer, via Opower’s Outlier Blog
Sometimes energy makes headlines, sometimes it doesn’t. But it almost always has important implications for the global economy, the environment, and our day-to-day lives.
Here are 10 energy statistics from 2012 that capture some of the most noteworthy trends of the year, and that will shape the energy world in the years to come.
Natural gas, one of the three key fossil fuels in our energy economy (along with coal and petroleum), continues to ascend as a major force.
One prominent example: during the month of April, for the first time ever documented in the US, the amount of electrical generation from natural gas was equal to the amount generated from coal, which has historically been the country’s predominant fuel for power plants. This moment has been on its way for a few years now, as natural gas’ share of electricity generation has been steadily increasing, while coal’s share has been steadily declining (now around 42% on average, down from 52% in 2000).
The fuel’s growing role in the US is tied to the recent boom in gas production from previously untapped shale formations (e.g. in North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas), which as of September 2012 account for 35% of the country’s dry natural gas production (compared to just 2% ten years ago). The plentiful supply of natural gas helped cause the fuel’s price to dip to a ten-year low earlier this year ($2.75 per thousand cubic feet), making it more competitive relative to other energy supply sources, including renewable energy (which now accounts for 13% of US electricity generation, mostly in the form of hydropower).
Smartphone sales volumes in 2012 were huge – estimated at 717 million retail shipments worldwide (a 45% lift over last year).
But their energy consumption is minuscule.
A study by Opower in September revealed that charging the iPhone 5 costs just $0.41 per year, and charging the Droid Galaxy SIII costs just $0.53.
The collective energy demand of all those phones is nothing to sneeze at, but in the bigger picture, a global increase in smartphone usage is likely to cause lower overall energy consumption…
How so? Many consumers now use their smartphones to do things (e.g. internet, media, games) that they used to do on bigger, energy-hogging devices (e.g. computers, televisions, and game consoles).
According to a report published in November by the International Energy Agency, the United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer by 2017, and will become a net oil exporter by 2030. The US will see a significant increase in its onshore crude oil production over the next decade, while improved fuel efficiency in transportation will also lead to a gradual decrease in oil imports.