US Energy Service: Steady Growth Despite Recession

Industry could more than double in size from ~$6 billion in 2013 to $11-$15 billion by 2020

electric.poleAggregate revenue growth rates for U.S. energy service companies (ESCOs) significantly outpaced U.S. GDP growth during the three-year period 2009 to 2011, according to a new report by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

ESCOs primarily use performance-based contracts to provide energy efficiency, renewable and other energy-related services while guaranteeing that installed equipment, controls and other measures will deliver a specified amount of cost and resource savings to the customer. Private and public sector ESCO customers have relied on performance-based projects for decades to reduce their operating costs and reap significant energy, water, and other savings, using little or no upfront cash. For context, this industry typically saves customers each year: (1) the equivalent amount of energy consumed by nearly 2 million households; (2) more than 20 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions; and (3) more than $4 billion in utility bills.

According to The President’s 2013 Climate Action Plan, performance-based contracts “drive economic development, utilize private sector innovation, and increase efficiency at minimum costs to the taxpayer, while also providing long-term savings in energy costs.” Performance contracting allows customers pay back the capital and financing costs of the efficiency improvements over time, out of the stream of dollar savings generated by performance-based projects, thus reducing the need to use tax dollars, or other appropriated funds to generate these savings. Federal, state, and local policies that remove existing barriers and encourage the future use of performance-based contracts will continue to be vital for industry growth into the future.

The research team analyzed the size of the U.S. ESCO industry by market segment, as well as growth projections and trends. Researchers collected information from thirty-five ESCOs, publicly-available data on ESCO financial performance, and industry experts.

“The ESCO industry has experienced fairly steady growth since the 1990s, and despite the recession, continued to grow about 9 percent per year from 2009 to 2011,” said Elizabeth Stuart, a researcher in Berkeley Lab’s Electricity Markets and Policy (EMP) Group in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD) and lead author of the report.

“We anticipate that U.S. ESCO industry revenues could double in size between today and 2020,” said co-author Peter Larsen, an economist at Berkeley Lab. “Based on historical trends, it is possible that the industry could grow 8 to12 percent annually depending on a number of scenarios?potentially achieving revenues of more than $15 billion in 2020. There are a number of factors that could impact the industry’s ability to achieve this expected growth, including clean energy and infrastructure modernization policies as well as expansion of ESCO services that take advantage of emerging opportunities.”

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