Friday, April 19, 2013

EIA Projects That Fossil Fuels Still Provide 78% Of US Energy In 2040

"The more things change the more that they stay the same" would sum up EIA's reference case in its 2013 Annual Energy Outlook.  If EIA's crystal ball comes true, Uncle Sam will get 78% of his energy from fossil fuels in 2040, down most modestly from 82% in 2011.

Renewable energy, in all its forms, increases from 9% of our total energy in 2011 to 13% by 2040.

If EIA is right, the shares of the energy pie going to fossil fuels, renewable energy, and nuclear barely change
over the next 27 years.  Since EIA also projects a small annual increase (0.3%) in energy use, renewables and to some extent natural gas get a bigger slice of a bigger energy pie.  Renewables and gas capture almost all the growth in energy use or the increase in the energy pie so the total amount of energy provided by renewables increases significantly, even though their market share rises modestly.

Interestingly, EIA also projects that coal will almost hold its market share, dropping from 20% of total energy in 2011 to 19% in 2040.  EIA has coal consumption rising 0.1% per year from 2011 to 2040 and growing back to 2011 levels by 2030.  If there is a war on coal, it does not show up in these numbers.

What does the EIA crystal ball say about gas?  It sees a truly marginal increase in market share from 26% of total energy in 2011 to 28% by 2040.  That's pretty slim pickings, given the shale gas revolution frenzy.

And still in 2040, oil is the nation's leading source of energy, providing 32% of all our energy, compared to 36% in 2011, according to the EIA reference case.  Those numbers would mean that gas makes only small gains in the transportation sector.

As for nuclear, EIA projects that it will provide 9% of total energy in 2040, up a tad from 8% in 2011.

My own view is that the EIA reference case badly underestimates the rise of solar (see the prior post for why) as well as energy storage technologies.  I suspect it also understates the increase in market share for natural gas that will occur.  In short, while EIA projects growth for both renewable energy and gas, I expect their actual performance will be considerably stronger than EIA project. I would also be surprised if nuclear and coal reach the EIA numbers.

On the demand side of the market, the EIA projections seem more solid.

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