The 2022 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook: Four Takeaways for Small Businesses

March 9, 2022 | Annabelle Swift, Associate, Clean Energy Business Network

 Last week, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and BloombergNEF released the 10th annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. The Factbook provides an overview of the clean energy economy through 2021, with data on policy, finance, economics, deployment, and emissions. 

Small businesses are a vital part of clean energy industries – across every type of technology, innovators and entrepreneurs are propelling innovation and making a tangible impact in their communities. 2021 set records for clean energy, including for small businesses.  

The CEBN has dug into the data in the Factbook. Here are four trends we’ve pulled out that affect small businesses. 

First, start-ups and small businesses were part of overall record-breaking investments in new clean energy assets.  

  • Global venture capital financing for technology start-ups set a new record at $53.7 billion.  
  • Total sustainable financing hit $1.6 trillion globally, and $105 billion was invested in the U.S. into energy transition assets. 
2022 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook -Business Council for Sustainable Energy and BloombergNEF

Second, the cycle of innovation continued.  Across all types of clean energy, technologies continue to improve and mature. Meanwhile, clean energy technologies that were once novel have become increasingly common. 

  • Over 8GW of new hydrogen-fired power plants were announced in the U.S.  
  • Developers were awarded leases in 2021 that could support up to 8.5GW of offshore wind capacity. This plus the record-recording lease sale generating $4.37 billion in February 2022 shows a trajectory of growth in this new U.S. industry, 
  • Lithium-battery storage has passed pumped hydrogen as the most common new build of storage capacity added to the grid.  
  • EVs have crossed into the mainstream, as evidenced by the numerous Superbowl ads featuring electric vehicles. In 2021, 657,000 EVs were sold in the U.S. – twice as much as 2020.  
2022 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook -Business Council for Sustainable Energy and BloombergNEF

Federal policy provided cleantech deployment a boost. Although a reconciliation package investing in clean energy is still pending, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) allocated $80 billion in funding for infrastructure supporting the energy transition. The establishment of a new Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations and the reorganization to include a dedicated Secretary of Infrastructure demonstrates new support through the Department of Energy (DOE) to bolster cleantech deployment.  

  • The BIL includes $7.5 billion in funding for EV charging infrastructure and $7.5 billion for electric transit procurement. 
  • The package also funds $28 billion for grid enhancement, $11 billion for CCUS demonstrations, and $9.5 billion for hydrogen hubs.  
2022 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook -Business Council for Sustainable Energy and BloombergNEF

Fourth and finally, clean energy continues to translate into jobs. Although the COVID-19 pandemic had a sizable impact on employment, 3.5 million people in the U.S. were employed in sustainable energy, nuclear, and energy storage sectors in 2020 (when most recent data is available). Tangible impacts of clean energy are visible in every state. Already, announcements of planned manufacturing facilities and deployment continue to spur optimism about jobs in clean energy. 

  • Energy efficiency employs by far the most workers with 2.1 million jobs, while natural gas and solar followed at 319,000 and 316,000 respectively. Wind energy supports 117,000 jobs. 
  • Energy sector jobs are not only commonplace but also pay 34% higher than the national median wage. 
  • $16.3 billion in investments were announced for battery factories in Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky. 
  • Offshore wind contracts were awarded to New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Maryland. Upcoming lease auctions are expected in California and the Gulf of Mexico as well.  

For more information, download the full Factbook.