WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Energy Information Administration (EIA) is now projecting renewable energy to experience 23 percent faster growth between now and 2030 than previously anticipated. The EIA’s latest “Annual Energy Outlook” foresees renewable energy providing 12.2 quadrillion Btu (quads) of energy by 2030, up from only 9.9 quads in last year’s outlook. For comparison, total U.S. energy use was 100 quads in 2006 and is projected to increase to 123.8 quads by 2030. The EIA projections include hydropower, which is expected to increase from 2.89 quads in 2006 to 3 quads in 2015, staying level after that. In contrast, biomass energy is projected to increase from 2.97 quads in 2006 to 5.52 quads in 2030, an 86 percent increase, while “other renewable energy” is projected to increase from 0.88 quads in 2006 to 2.49 quads in 2030, a nearly threefold increase. And this is just the EIA’s reference case, often characterized as the “business as usual” case; a full EIA report examining alternative scenarios will be released early in 2008.

Breaking down the numbers for electricity production, geothermal power production is expected to increase 88.4 percent by 2030, while the power generated from wood and other biomass is expected to increase nearly ninefold. Solar thermal power generation is expected to increase more than fourfold, while grid-connected solar power, which provided a miniscule share of the country’s power in 2006, is projected to experience a 73-fold increase. Wind power is projected to experience a fivefold increase, but the EIA does not project any significant offshore wind power in its reference case. Meanwhile, the contributions from biofuels are expected to nearly quadruple, growing from 0.5 quads in 2006 to 1.87 quads in 2030. In addition, residential and commercial use of geothermal heat pumps, solar hot water, and solar and wind power are expected to contribute only 0.17 quads by 2030.

Overall, the EIA report projects higher oil prices in the future, although it anticipates that oil prices will gradually decline to a low of $58 per barrel in 2016. After that, oil prices steadily escalate back to today’s prices by 2030, due to an increasing reliance on “higher cost supplies.” That also retards the growth in U.S. energy use, which increases at 0.9 percent per year in the reference case. And with our increasing reliance on high-tech devices, electricity use increases faster than total energy use, growing at an average annual rate of 1.3 percent.

Publication date:12/24/2007