EIA Examines Alternate Scenarios For Future Of U.S. Energy

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The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released the complete version of its Annual Energy Outlook 2011 (AEO2011), which includes 57 sensitivity cases that show how different assumptions regarding market, policy and technology drivers affect the previously released reference case projections of energy production, consumption, technology and market trends, and the direction they may take in the future.

‘EIA's projections indicate strong growth in shale gas production, growing use of natural gas and renewables in electric power generation, declining reliance on imported liquid fuels, and projected slow growth in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the absence of new policies designed to reduce them,’ says Richard Newell, EIA administrator. ‘But variations in key assumptions can have a significant impact on the projected outcomes.’

In addition to considering alternative scenarios for oil prices, economic growth and the uptake of more energy-efficient technologies, the AEO2011 sensitivity cases explore important areas of uncertainty for markets, technologies and policies in the U.S. energy economy.

Highlights include the following:

– Proposed environmental regulations could alter the power generation fuel mix. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to enact several key regulations in the coming decade that will have an impact on the U.S. power sector, particularly the fleet of coal-fired power plants. Because the rules have not yet been finalized, their impacts cannot be fully analyzed, and they are not included in the reference case.

– The range of coal plant retirements varies considerably across the cases, with a low of 9 GW (3% of the coal fleet) in the reference case and a high of 73 GW (over 20% of the coal fleet) in the most extreme case.

– Assuming no changes in policy related to greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions grow slowly. Energy-related CO2 emissions grow slowly in the AEO2011 reference case due to a combination of modest economic growth, growing use of renewable technologies and fuels, efficiency improvements, slow growth in electricity demand and more use of natural gas, which is less carbon-intensive than other fossil fuels.

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