WEMO 2019: North America

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Pockets of progress

2018 saw the highest annual electricity output on record in North America, with residential and commercial sectors both reaching all-time highs for retail electricity sales. While renewable energy sources represented 18 percent of total energy generation—a 79 percent increase from its contribution a decade ago—electricity from coal-fired plants still dominate the energy generation mix.

The ongoing commitment to fossil fuels is one factor that is stunting the region’s progress on broad climate change agenda, as is surging carbon emissions from heavy industry players—a point largely ignored by both federal and state-level policymakers. At the same time, technology offers tepid optimism as digital innovation within utility operations is being embraced more rapidly than elsewhere in the world.

Looking to long-term targets, low natural gas prices and the favorable cost of renewables have helped them evolve as primary sources for new capacity additions until 2050. Globally, the U.S. was the second largest market for clean energy investment in 2018, at $64B.

Thus, North America offers cause for both celebration and concern. Collaboration between policymakers, utilities, private companies and consumers is needed to develop a comprehensive strategy that will meet growing demand and address the region’s shortfalls on climate change.

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Expert Perspective

“At the 2040 horizon, significant disruptions will arise from technology and digital combinations. We can expect to see considerable gains in efficiency and cost savings as realized through data-enabled intelligent automation applications, as well as at-scale deployment of the smart grid and digital operations.” Perry Stoneman, Senior Advisor of Energy & Utilities

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