U.S. energy consumption might take years to match 2019 levels due to the coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath, and renewable power will continue to capture a larger share of total generation, according to an annual report issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration on Feb. 3.
“It will take a while for the energy sector to get to its new normal,” EIA Acting Administrator Stephen Nalley said. “The pandemic triggered a historic energy demand shock that led to lower greenhouse gas emissions, decreases in energy production and sometimes volatile commodity prices in 2020. The pace of economic recovery, advances in technology, changes in trade flows and energy incentives will determine how the United States produces and consumes energy in the future.”
The EIA projected U.S. electricity demand will not return to 2019 levels until 2025. Renewable electric generating technologies are projected to account for almost 60% of the capacity additions from 2020 to 2050, with renewables’ share of the electricity generation mix more than doubling by 2050. Gas-fired power share will remain relatively flat at 36%, while coal and nuclear shares will both fall by about half, according to baseline projections.
“Renewable energy incentives and falling technology costs support robust competition with natural gas as coal and nuclear power decrease in the electricity mix,” the EIA said.
All new generating capacity will come from gas, solar and wind sources. Renewable generating capacity is forecast to grow by 213 GW over the next decade, according to the EIA reference case. Gas-fired capacity is projected to increase by 63 MW, while coal capacity will decrease by approximately 100 MW.
By 2050, renewable power is projected to increase from 21% to 42% of all U.S. electricity generation capacity. Solar will account for 47% of all renewable power capacity, with wind behind at 34%. Over the same time frame, gas-fired power is forecast to fall from 40% of all generating capacity to 36% in the reference case.