By - Jim Vess

U.S. manufacturing becoming less energy intensive as production shifts, EIA says

Energize Weekly, November 1, 2017

The energy intensity of U.S. manufacturing is continuing to decrease, in part through energy efficiency measures and in larger part by a shift in production to less energy-intensive industries, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Manufacturing energy consumption rose 4.7 percent between 2010 and 2014, while real gross output was up 9.6 percent—resulting in a 4.4 percent decrease in energy intensity, according to the EIA’s latest Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey (MECS).

EIA initiated MECS in 1985. This is the eighth survey.

The decrease in energy intensity is primarily linked to the changing fortunes of various industrial sectors.

“Although many manufacturing establishments are taking steps to reduce their energy consumption, the energy intensity decrease for total manufacturing is mostly the result of a shift of manufacturing output from energy-intensive industries, such as the manufacture of metals, chemicals, paper, and petroleum and coal products, to less energy-intensive industries,” the survey said.

If key industries had kept the same proportion of the overall manufacturing sector, the decline in energy intensity between 2010 and 2014 would have been less than 1 percent, according to EIA.

Transportation equipment manufacturing, which has a relatively low energy intensity, was one of the fastest growing industries during the survey period. The gross output in transportation manufacturing was up 30.8 percent—triple the overall manufacturing rate.

While output and consumption rose, manufacturing employment decreased from 2010 to 2014, yielding an increase in labor productivity. “Manufacturing processes continue to evolve, incorporating more electronic and robotic devices, which may be a primary factor in increased labor productivity,” the EIA said.

In measuring total energy consumption in manufacturing, the survey included fuel and nonfuel uses, such as the role of natural gas as a feedstock in the chemical industry.

When looking at just fuel consumption, natural gas made up the largest and a growing portion of the total—39 percent of all manufacturing fuel consumption. “On an economic basis, natural gas has become more cost competitive with coal and requires lower expenditures per unit of energy than fuel oil or liquefied petroleum gas,” the survey said.

The consumption of electricity in manufacturing has remained relatively stable, the survey found. While total electricity consumption has varied some between 1998 and 2014, the ratio of receipts for electricity has changed only slightly. This includes open-market purchases, onsite generation adjusted for sales offsite and within-company transfers.

In 2014, manufacturing purchases and transfers combined were 88.4 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption, and generation minus sales was 11.6 percent. Those shares have not varied by more than 1 percent from 1998 to 2014.

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