The US environmental industry grew 3.9% in 2014 to reach $353.7 billion in revenues, according to primary research and data compiled by Environmental Business International Inc., publisher of Environmental Business Journal. The environmental industry represented 2.82% of the US gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014, and EBI estimates environmental industry employment at 1.74 million in 2014, up slightly from 2013.
For the report, EBJ divides the 14 business segments of the Environmental Industry into three categories: Environmental Services, Environmental Equipment, and Resource Management. The research shows that Environmental Services only narrowly exceeded US GDP growth of 2.4% in 2014 as a continuing decline in federal spending and an abrupt slowdown in domestic oil exploration impacted core segments. This category – which includes core services hazardous waste management, remediation, environmental testing, and environmental consulting & engineering, as well as solid waste and wastewater treatment – has consistently exceeded GDP growth by one to three percentage points since 2000, and 2015 EBI expects that Environmental Services returned to that range in 2015.
Within the Environmental Services category, Wastewater Treatment Works turned in 4.1% growth to $56 billion as rates continued a steady ascent, Solid Waste Management grew 2.2% to $58 billion on declining volumes, and the environmental consulting & engineering industry just 1.9%. Fortunately for firms in the $28.9 billion environmental C&E business segment, property development, construction and domestic industrial activity made up for the declining federal and oil & gas categories: Government revenues were down 2%, but private sector revenues rose 6%.
In the Environmental Equipment category, comprised of five business segments, revenues grew 3%, led by Instruments and Information Systems, which rose by 5% fueled by double-digit growth in environmental software and information systems. Sales in pollution control equipment were generally slow as municipal buyers in water and waste remained cautious or under-funded, and utilities did their best to delay air pollution control investments, although industrial buyers in air and water provided some growth.
Resource Management gains were dominated by Clean Energy Systems & Power in 2014, expanding its revenues by 28% due mostly to a significant gain in U.S. windpower installations after a slow 2013, and ongoing growth in distributed and utility solar power. Solar doubled its US generation to 18,000 GWh in 2014, but that is still just one-tenth of US wind generation. Resource Recovery trailed all segments with a 6% fall in revenues in 2014 that continued in 2015, due mostly to declining prices, particularly in metals and paper. Recycling rates have leveled since 2008 as have volumes of recovered materials, but volumes going to landfill or incineration continue to decline gradually with the exception of food waste and plastics that continue to make up increasing shares of discarded waste in the US.