U.S. Energy Demand, Greenhouse Emissions to Rise

WASHINGTON, DC, January 2, 2001 (ENS) - As California's electricity grid is stressed by high demand, scant reserves, skyrocketing fuel prices and power shortages, the federal government has issued a 20 year energy forecast warning Americans to brace for more of the same across the country.

Energy demand in the United States will increase 32 percent by 2020, according to the latest energy forecast from the Energy Information Administration in its "Annual Energy Outlook 2001" released at the end of December. Energy Information Administration (EIA) is the statistical agency within the U.S. Department of Energy.

The growth in energy demand will be outpaced by the growth in greenhouse gas emissions, the agency predicts.

The energy crunch will be eased by renewable and energy efficient technologies that are expected to become available and penetrate the U.S. market over the next 20 years, the EIA reports.


Residence with grid connected solar photovoltaic panels in Gardner, Massachusetts (Photo by Bill Eager courtesy National Renewable Energy Lab)
Solar photovoltaic energy generation will represent the fastest growing source of electricity generation in the United States for the next 20 years. The use of solar power will grow by more than 19 percent each year until 2020, the agency says.

Grid connected solar photovoltaic power was one of the smallest contributors to the U.S. electricity pool in 1999, with only 0.01 GW of capacity, but EIA tables show that it will expand by 19.4 percent each year until 2020.

Grid connected solar thermal power is expected to grow at 1.7 percent a year.

Conventional hydroelectric dams provide the largest source of renewable energy in the United States, with 78 gigawatts of capacity in 1999. These facilities will remain static for the next 20 years, with power output actually decreasing slightly during the period, says EIA.

Geothermal power is the next largest contributor to the renewable energy pool, and geothermal generation will increase 3.7 percent a year over the 20 year period.


One of the jets going into the third condenser at The Geysers geothermal power plant in California. With a 750-megawatt output from 14 units, The Geysers is the largest producer of geothermal power in the world. (Photo by David Parsons courtesy National Renewable Energy Lab)
Generation of power from municipal solid waste is forecast to expand at 2.9 percent a year for the next 20 years.

Biomass power generation from agricultural and forest waste will grow at 2.2 percent a year through 2020.

Wind energy power generation is expected to grow at an annual increase of 3.9 percent for the next 20 years.

The agency's projections assume a transition to full competitive pricing of electricity in states with specific deregulation plans - California, New York, New England, the Mid-Atlantic States, Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan, Ohio, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Virginia. Other states are assumed to continue the current system - cost of service electricity pricing.

The agency's base projections assume technology improvements in oil and natural gas production that lower costs and improve discovery and successful extraction rates. The report reflects legislation in eight states that limits the use of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) that has been found to pollute groundwater used for drinking.

"Economic growth is a major determinant of both energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions," the agency explains.

Carbon dioxide emissions are projected to increase throughout the forecast period, because "continued economic growth and moderate increases or even decreases in projected real energy prices are expected to lead to increasing energy consumption," the EIA predicts.


Two grid connected Zond wind turbines, serve about 350 homes near Springview, Nebraska. Deke Dietrich, operations manager for KBR, Rural Public Power District, inspects the installation. (Photo by Warren Gretz courtesy DOE Wind Turbine Verification Program)
The 1.4 percent growth rate for projected carbon dioxide emissions is slightly faster than the growth rate for total energy consumption, which is expected to increase at an average annual rate of 1.3 percent.

The growth in carbon dioxide emissions is projected to be more rapid than the growth in total energy consumption for two primary reasons, the agency says. First, about 27 percent of existing nuclear generating capacity, which emits no carbon dioxide, is expected to be retired by 2020, and no new nuclear plants are projected to be constructed. Second, because prices for both natural gas and coal are expected to remain moderate, growth in the use of renewable energy sources is projected to remain slow.

Using renewable energy will be the second choice for power companies in the United States that want to avoid emissions of greenhouse gases, the agency says.

Power companies will "shift dramatically away from coal to natural gas and, to a lesser extent, renewables" in order to comply with limits on the emission of carbon dioxide, says the agency in another report, "Strategies for Reducing Multiple Emissions from Power Plants," also released in late December.

But the EIA warns against placing too much reliance on renewable energy sources to ease the power crunch. "Projections of large increases in renewable energy use should be viewed with caution," the report says.

"The availability of renewable energy resources to support major growth is often uncertain, particularly in the case of biomass, geothermal and wind resources, and the costs and performance of new technologies also are uncertain. Consumer tastes, environmental accommodation and market acceptance may be problematic, and the ability of different suppliers and regions to integrate large proportions of renewables, especially intermittent sources like solar and wind, into overall supply is not known," the EIA says.

For the complete "Annual Energy Outlook 2001," visit: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/index.html

For an EIA table detailing renewable resources consumption and displacement by region and electricty source, visit: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/supplement/suptab_75.htm