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Energy Industry
The United States is a global leader in the production, supply, and consumption of energy.

SelectUSA Energy Industry

Industry Overview

The United States is a leader in the production, supply, and consumption of energy. U.S. energy companies produce oil, natural gas, coal, renewable fuels, as well as electricity from clean energy sources, including wind, solar, hydropower, geothermal, and nuclear power. U.S. energy companies further transmit, distribute, and store energy through complex infrastructure networks that are supported by emerging products and services such as smart grid technologies. Growing consumer demand and world-class innovation – combined with a competitive workforce and supply chain capable of building, installing, and servicing all energy technologies – make the United States one of the world’s most attractive markets. According to the International Energy Agency, total investment in the U.S. energy sector was valued at $350 billion in 2018 (the second-largest in the world). In 2019, total foreign direct investment in the U.S. industry reached $269.8 billion and supported 172,500 jobs.

Industry Subsectors

The United States is home to a thriving renewable energy industry, with globally competitive firms in all technology subsectors, including the wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, biomass, and biofuels sectors. Today, the United States has the most geothermal capacity of any country (2.6 GW); has the third-largest bioenergy capacity (12.4 GW); the second-largest wind capacity (103.6 GW); the third-largest hydropower capacity (83.6 GW); and the second-largest solar capacity (62.3 GW). The Department of Energy estimates that renewable energy has the potential to generate 42 percent of U.S. electricity by 2050, up from almost 20 percent today. In 2019, EY ranked the United States as the second most attractive country for renewable energy investment.

In 2017, there were 1,428 establishments in this industry. Employment figures from 2019 estimate there were 384,460 workers employed in electric power generation, transmission, and distribution (which includes nuclear power). The top occupations in this industry (including nuclear) are installation, repair, and maintenance occupations. There were 116,280 workers employed in these occupations earning an average annual wage of $79,240 in 2019. Of these workers, 54,550 are employed specifically as electrical power line installers and repairers earning an average annual wage of $77,980 in 2019.

The market for achieving greater energy efficiency in the United States is large and growing. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that $83 billion was invested in 2018 on energy efficiency in the United States. Existing policies, such as federal appliance standards, along with other Federal and State policies, and market forces are drivers of energy efficiency in the United States.

With access to abundant natural resources, the pellet and ethanol industries are also increasing their capacity – particularly to serve overseas markets. America’s ethanol industry is the largest and most efficient in the world, incorporating technological innovations to produce over 16 billion gallons of ethanol annually. In addition, the industry is expanding to new markets. In 2018, the U.S. ethanol industry exported an estimated 1.5 billion gallons of ethanol–around 10 percent of its total production–to markets around the world. Investment opportunities also exist for the development of advanced biofuels utilizing new technologies and feedstocks, particularly in the aviation sector. U.S. wood pellet manufacturers can now produce over 13 million metric tons of pellets annually. Much of the production has been added in recent years to export to Europe. In 2018, over 6 million metric tons were exported and new pellet mills have been brought online to meet the growing demand.

Energy, environmental, and security needs for the 21st century have accelerated both public and private sector investments in grid modernization and smart grid technologies across the United States. Increased investment in U.S. grid modernization includes reliability enhancement, renewable resources integration, demand shifts, and market reforms that create more options for independent generators and require new connections to transmission systems. The United States is the second largest investor in transmission and distribution (T&D) networks globally with $65 billion invested in 2017.

Additionally, the United State is widely considered a global leader in “smart” energy technology investment. To support this ecosystem, the United States is an international leader in the development of smart grid technologies and services. The smart grid is a modernized electricity T&D network that includes two-way communication systems and enables the integration of technologies to improve grid efficiency, reliability, sustainability, and security. The term “smart grid industry” is used interchangeably with other industry nomenclature (such as grid modernization) to describe the ecosystem of goods, services, and technologies that support the transmission, distribution, and storage of electricity. According to analysis from the International Trade Administration’s 2018 Smart Grid Top Market Report, the United States accounts for 36 percent of the total global capacity for electrochemical (battery) energy storage, a fast-growing subsector that can help address intermittency from renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

The United States is the world’s top producer of petroleum and natural gas. Oil and natural gas accounted for nearly 60 percent of all U.S. energy production in 2018. The United States remains a major source of growth in oil and gas exploration and development, especially in shale and ultra deep-water resources. U.S. companies began exporting LNG from the continental United States for the first time in 2016, sending shipments to major markets around the world. In 2017, the United States became a net natural gas exporter for the first time since 1957. These companies have developed advanced and cost-competitive techniques for extracting hydrocarbons from shale and hard to reach offshore oil and gas deposits, altering the U.S. oil and gas sector and the domestic energy landscape.

In 2017, there were 6,405 establishments in the oil and gas industry. Foreign direct investment totaled $46.4 billion in oil and gas extraction, and an additional $27.6 billion in support activities for oil and gas extraction in 2019. In 2018, FDI supported 12,300 jobs or about 8 percent of total employment in the oil and gas extraction industry. The latest employment figures from 2020 estimate that 163,700 workers are employed in oil and gas extraction and another 180,800 are employed in support activities. In 2019, the top occupations in the oil and gas extraction industry were construction and extraction occupations. 20,540 workers were employed in these occupations making an average annual wage of $64,740. Of these workers, 14,540 were employed specifically as extraction workers making an average annual wage of $56,600. The second most common occupations were business and financial operations comprised of 19,330 workers making an average annual wage of $92,610. The third most common occupations were architecture and engineering occupations. There were 18,480 workers employed in these occupations earning an average annual wage of $134,920 in 2019.

The United States holds the world’s largest estimated recoverable reserves of coal. In 2018, the United States exported 13 percent of its coal. The remaining 87 percent was sold to end-use markets, primarily the power sector and industrial customers. In 2019, coal was used to generate 23 percent of the electricity in the United States. As of 2017, there were 729 establishments in the coal mining industry. In 2019, an estimated 50,770 workers were employed in this industry making an average annual wage of $61,440. During the same year, the most common occupations were construction and extraction occupations. 30,170 workers were employed in these occupations making an average annual wage of $58,990. Within these occupations, 17,170 workers were employed as extraction workers making an average annual was of $57,230. The second most common occupations were construction trades workers which was comprised of 9,710 workers making an average annual wage of $54,430.

The United States operates the most nuclear reactors, has the largest installed nuclear power capacity, and generates the most nuclear power in the world. Nearly 20 percent of U.S. electricity is produced at 94 nuclear reactors in 28 states. In 2017, there were 178 establishments in this industry. By 2021, new nuclear reactors are expected to come online, and licenses are pending or have been issued for 10 additional new reactors. Subsectors of the civil nuclear industry are represented by companies that produce nuclear components (reactors, nuclear monitoring instruments, boilers, heat exchangers, industrial valves, instrument modules, insulation, economizers for boilers, pumps, and other reactor parts), nuclear fuel (uranium mining, conversion, enrichment, fuel assembly fabrication, and spent fuel storage), nuclear engineering and construction (site preparation, materials and equipment procurement, and construction), and nuclear advisory services (consulting on nuclear-related regulatory policies, human resources, infrastructure, legal services, and operations and program management services). 

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Industry Factsheet

Explore the impact of foreign direct investment on U.S. jobs, exports, and innovation in the energy industry.

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Investor Guide

The Investor Guide is a high-level view of everything from taxes to immigration and workforce to business structures.

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SelectUSA Stats

SelectUSA has created several dashboards to help analyze key FDI data from a variety of sources.

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Industry Associations
A comprehensive list of associations in the energy industry.
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Browse this state incentives database developed by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).
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