‹ Analysis & Projections

Annual Energy Outlook 2015

Release Date: April 14, 2015   |  Next Release Date: March 2016 |  correction  |  full report

Executive Summary

Projections in the Annual Energy Outlook 2015 (AEO2015) focus on the factors expected to shape U.S. energy markets through 2040. The projections provide a basis for examination and discussion of energy market trends and serve as a starting point for analysis of potential changes in U.S. energy policies, rules, and regulations, as well as the potential role of advanced technologies.

Key results from the AEO2015 Reference and alternative cases include the following:

  • The future path of crude oil and natural gas prices can vary substantially, depending on assumptions about the size of global and domestic resources, demand for petroleum products and natural gas (particularly in non-Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (non-OECD) countries), levels of production, and supplies of other fuels. AEO2015 considers these factors in examining alternative price and resource availability cases.
  • Growth in U.S. energy production—led by crude oil and natural gas—and only modest growth in demand reduces U.S. reliance on imported energy supplies. Energy imports and exports come into balance in the United States starting in 2028 in the AEO2015 Reference case and in 2019 in the High Oil Price and High Oil and Gas Resource cases. Natural gas is the dominant U.S. energy export, while liquid fuels [4] continue to be imported.
  • Through 2020, strong growth in domestic crude oil production from tight formations leads to a decline in net petroleum imports [5] and growth in net petroleum product exports in all AEO2015 cases. In the High Oil and Gas Resource case, increased crude production before 2020 results in increased processed condensate[6] exports. Slowing growth in domestic production after 2020 is offset by increased vehicle fuel economy standards that limit growth in domestic demand. The net import share of crude oil and petroleum products supplied falls from 33% of total supply in 2013 to 17% of total supply in 2040 in the Reference case. The United States becomes a net exporter of petroleum and other liquids after 2020 in the High Oil Price and High Oil and Gas Resource cases because of greater U.S. crude oil production.
  • The United States transitions from being a modest net importer of natural gas to a net exporter by 2017. U.S. export growth continues after 2017, with net exports in 2040 ranging from 3.0 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in the Low Oil Price case to 13.1 Tcf in the High Oil and Gas Resource case.
  • Growth in crude oil and dry natural gas production varies significantly across oil and natural gas supply regions and cases, forcing shifts in crude oil and natural gas flows between U.S. regions, and requiring investment in or realignment of pipelines and other midstream infrastructure
  • U.S. energy consumption grows at a modest rate over the AEO2015 projection period, averaging 0.3%/year from 2013 through 2040 in the Reference case. A marginal decrease in transportation sector energy consumption contrasts with growth in most other sectors. Declines in energy consumption tend to result from the adoption of more energy-efficient technologies and existing policies that promote increased energy efficiency.
  • Growth in production of dry natural gas and natural gas plant liquids (NGPL) contributes to the expansion of several manufacturing industries (such as bulk chemicals and primary metals) and the increased use of NGPL feedstocks in place of petroleum-based naphtha [7] feedstocks.
  • Rising long-term natural gas prices, the high capital costs of new coal and nuclear generation capacity, state-level policies, and cost reductions for renewable generation in a market characterized by relatively slow electricity demand growth favor increased use of renewables.
  • Rising costs for electric power generation, transmission, and distribution, coupled with relatively slow growth of electricity demand, produce an 18% increase in the average retail price of electricity over the period from 2013 to 2040 in the AEO2015 Reference case. The AEO2015 cases do not include the proposed Clean Power Plan.[8]
  • Improved efficiency in the end-use sectors and a shift away from more carbon-intensive fuels help to stabilize U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which remain below the 2005 level through 2040.

The future path of crude oil prices can vary substantially, depending on assumptions about the size of the resource and growth in demand, particularly in non-OECD countries

AEO2015 considers a number of factors related to the uncertainty of future crude oil prices, including changes in worldwide demand for petroleum products, crude oil production, and supplies of other liquid fuels. In all the AEO2015 cases, the North Sea Brent crude oil price reflects the world market price for light sweet crude, and all the cases account for market conditions in 2014, including the 10% decline in the average Brent spot price to $97/barrel (bbl) in 2013 dollars.

In the AEO2015 Reference case, continued growth in U.S. crude oil production contributes to a 43% decrease in the Brent crude oil price, to $56/bbl in 2015 (Figure ES1). Prices rise steadily after 2015 in response to growth in demand from countries outside the OECD; however, downward price pressure from continued increases in U.S. crude oil production keeps the Brent price below $80/bbl through 2020. U.S. crude oil production starts to decline after 2020, but increased production from non-OECD countries and from countries in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) contributes to the Brent price remaining below $100/bbl through 2028 and limits the Brent price increase through 2040, when it reaches $141/bbl.

There is significant price variation in the alternative cases using different assumptions. In the Low Oil Price case, the Brent price drops to $52/bbl in 2015, 7% lower than in the Reference case, and reaches $76/bbl in 2040, 47% lower than in the Reference case, largely as a result of lower non-OECD demand and higher upstream investment by OPEC. In the High Oil Price case, the Brent price increases to $122/bbl in 2015 and to $252/bbl in 2040, largely in response to significantly lower OPEC production and higher non-OECD demand. In the High Oil and Gas Resource case, assumptions about overseas demand and supply decisions do not vary from those in the Reference case, but U.S. crude oil production growth is significantly greater, resulting in lower U.S. net imports of crude oil, and causing the Brent spot price to average $129/bbl in 2040, which is 8% lower than in the Reference case.


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Future natural gas prices will be influenced by a number of factors, including oil prices, resource availability, and demand for natural gas

Projections of natural gas prices are influenced by assumptions about oil prices, resource availability, and natural gas demand. In the Reference case, the Henry Hub natural gas spot price (in 2013 dollars) rises from $3.69/million British thermal units (Btu) in 2015 to $4.88/million Btu in 2020 and to $7.85/million Btu in 2040 (Figure ES2), as increased demand in domestic and international markets leads to the production of increasingly expensive resources.

In the AEO2015 alternative cases, the Henry Hub natural gas spot price is lowest in the High Oil and Gas Resource case, which assumes greater estimated ultimate recovery per well, closer well spacing, and greater gains in technological development. In the High Oil and Gas Resource case, the Henry Hub natural gas spot price falls from $3.14/million Btu in 2015 to $3.12/million Btu in 2020 (36% below the Reference case price) before rising to $4.38/million Btu in 2040 (44% below the Reference case price). Cumulative U.S. domestic dry natural gas production from 2015 to 2040 is 26% higher in the High Oil and Gas Resource case than in the Reference case and is sufficient to meet rising domestic consumption and exports—both pipeline gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG)—even as prices remain low.

Henry Hub natural gas spot prices are highest in the High Oil Price case, which assumes the same level of resource availability as the AEO2015 Reference case, but different Brent crude oil prices. The higher Brent crude oil prices in the High Oil Price case affect the level of overseas demand for U.S. LNG exports, because international LNG contracts are often linked to crude oil prices—although the linkage is expected to weaken with changing market conditions. When the Brent spot price rises in the High Oil Price case, world LNG contracts that are linked to oil prices become relatively more competitive, making LNG exports from the United States more desirable. In the High Oil Price case, the Henry Hub natural gas spot price remains close to the Reference case price through 2020; however, higher overseas demand for U.S. LNG exports raises the average Henry Hub price to $10.63/million Btu in 2040, which is 35% above the Reference case price. Cumulative U.S. exports of LNG from 2015 to 2040 in the High Oil Price case are more than twice those in the Reference case. The opposite occurs in the Low Oil Price case: low Brent crude oil prices cause oil-linked LNG contracts to become relatively less competitive and make U.S. LNG exports less desirable. Lower overseas demand for U.S. LNG exports causes the average Henry Hub price to reach only $7.15/million Btu in 2040, 9% lower than in the Reference case.


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Global growth and trade weaken beyond 2025, creating headwinds for U.S. export-oriented industries

In the AEO2015 projections, growth in U.S. net exports contributes more to GDP growth than it has over the past 30 years (partially due to a reduction in net energy imports); however, its impact diminishes in the later years of the projection, reflecting slowing GDP growth in nations that are U.S. trading partners, along with the impacts of exchange rates and prices on trade. As economic growth in the rest of the world slows (as shown in Table ES1), so does U.S. export growth, with commensurate impacts on growth in manufacturing output, particularly in the paper, chemicals, primary metals, and other energy-intensive industries. The impact varies across industries.

Table ES1. Growth of trade-related factors in the Reference case, 1983-2040
(average annual percent change)
Measure History: 1983-2013 2013-20 2020-25 2025-30 2030-35 2035-40
U.S. GDP 2.8% 2.6% 2.5% 2.3% 2.2% 2.3%
U.S. GDP per capita 1.8% 1.8% 1.8% 1.6% 1.6% 1.8%
U.S. exports 6.1% 4.8% 6.2% 4.8% 4.5% 4.1%
U.S. imports 6.0% 4.6% 4.1% 3.7% 3.7% 3.7%
U.S. net export growth 0.1% 0.3% 2.1% 1.1% 0.8% 0.3%
Real GDP of OECD trading partners 2.4% 2.1% 1.9% 1.8% 1.7% 1.7%
Real GDP of other trading partners 4.7% 4.3% 4.2% 3.7% 3.4% 3.2%

Source: Summary of AEO2015 cases: U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Note: Major U.S. trading partners include Australia, Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Japan, Sweden, and the Eurozone. Other U.S. trading partners include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Mexico, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Israel, South Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, and Venezuela.

Recent model revisions to the underlying industrial supply and demand relationships[9] have emphasized the importance of trade to manufacturing industries, so that the composition of trade determines the level of industrial output. Consumer goods and industrial supplies show higher levels of net export growth than other categories throughout the projection. The diminishing net export growth in all categories in the later years of the projection explains much of the leveling off of growth that occurs in some trade-sensitive industries.

U.S. net energy imports decline and ultimately end, largely in response to increased oil and dry natural gas production

Energy imports and exports come into balance in the United States in the AEO2015 Reference case, starting in 2028. In the High Oil Price and High Oil and Gas Resource cases, with higher U.S. crude oil and dry natural gas production and lower imports, the United States becomes a net exporter of energy in 2019. In contrast, in the Low Oil Price case, the United States remains a net energy importer through 2040 (Figure ES3).

Economic growth assumptions also affect the U.S. energy trade balance. In the Low Economic Growth case, U.S. energy imports are lower than in the Reference case, and the United States becomes a net energy exporter in 2022. In the High Economic Growth case, the United States remains a net energy importer through 2040.


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The share of total U.S. energy production from crude oil and lease condensate rises from 19% in 2013 to 25% in 2040 in the High Oil and Gas Resource case, as compared with no change in the Reference case. Dry natural gas production remains the largest contributor to total U.S. energy production through 2040 in all the AEO2015 cases, with a higher share in the High Oil and Gas Resource case (38%) than in the Reference case (34%) and all other cases. In 2013, dry natural gas accounted for 30% of total U.S. energy production.

Coal's share of total U.S. energy production in the High Oil and Gas Resource case falls from 26% in 2013 to 15% in 2040. In the Reference case and most of the other AEO2015 cases, the coal share remains slightly above 20% of total U.S. energy production through 2040; in the Low Oil Price case, with lower oil and gas production levels, it remains essentially flat at 23% through 2040.

Continued strong growth in domestic production of crude oil from tight formations leads to a decline in net imports of crude oil and petroleum products

U.S. crude oil production from tight formations leads the growth in total U.S. crude oil production in all the AEO2015 cases. In the Reference case, lower levels of domestic consumption of liquid fuels and higher levels of domestic production of crude oil push the net import share of crude oil and petroleum products supplied down from 33% in 2013 to 17% in 2040 (Figure ES4).

In the High Oil Price and High Oil and Gas Resource cases, growth in tight oil production results in significantly higher levels of total U.S. crude oil production than in the Reference case. Crude oil production in the High Oil and Gas Resource case increases to 16.6 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2040, compared with a peak of 10.6 million bbl/d in 2020 in the Reference case. In the High Oil Price case, production reaches a high of 13.0 million bbl/d in 2026, then declines to 9.9 million bbl/d in 2040 as a result of earlier resource development. In the Low Oil Price case, U.S. crude oil production totals 7.1 million bbl/d in 2040. The United States becomes a net petroleum exporter in 2021 in both the High Oil Price and High Oil and Gas Resource cases. With lower levels of domestic production and higher domestic consumption in the Low Oil Price case, the net import share of total liquid fuels supply increases to 36% of total domestic supply in 2040.


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Net natural gas trade, including LNG exports, depends largely on the effects of resource levels and oil prices

In all the AEO2015 cases, the United States transitions from a net importer of 1.3 Tcf of natural gas in 2013 (5.5% of the 23.7 Tcf delivered to consumers) to a net exporter in 2017. Net exports continue to grow after 2017, to a 2040 range between 3.0 Tcf in the Low Oil Price case and 13.1 Tcf in the High Oil and Gas Resource case (Figure ES5).


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In the Reference case, LNG exports reach 3.4 Tcf in 2030 and remain at that level through 2040, when they account for 46% of total U.S. natural gas exports. The growth in U.S. LNG exports is supported by differences between international and domestic natural gas prices. LNG supplied to international markets is primarily priced on the basis of world oil prices, among other factors. This results in significantly higher prices for global LNG than for domestic natural gas supply, particularly in the near term. However, the relationship between the price of international natural gas supplies and world oil prices is assumed to weaken later in the projection period, in part as a result of growth in U.S. LNG export capacity. U.S. natural gas prices are determined primarily by the availability and cost of domestic natural gas resources. In the High Oil Price case, with higher world oil prices resulting in higher international natural gas prices, U.S. LNG exports climb to 8.1 Tcf in 2033 and account for 73% of total U.S. natural gas exports in 2040.

In the High Oil and Gas Resource case, abundant U.S. dry natural gas production keeps domestic natural gas prices lower than international prices, supporting the growth of U.S. LNG exports, which total 10.3 Tcf in 2037 and account for 66% of total U.S. natural gas exports in 2040. In the Low Oil Price case, with lower world oil prices, U.S. LNG exports are less competitive and grow more slowly, to a peak of 0.8 Tcf in 2018, and account for 13% of total U.S. natural gas exports in 2040.

Additional growth in net natural gas exports comes from growing natural gas pipeline exports to Mexico, which reach a high of 4.7 Tcf in 2040 in the High Oil and Gas Resource case (compared with 0.7 Tcf in 2013). In the High Oil Price case, U.S. natural gas pipeline exports to Mexico peak at 2.2 Tcf in 2040, as higher domestic natural gas prices resulting from increased world demand for LNG reduce the incentive to export natural gas via pipeline. Natural gas pipeline net imports from Canada remain below 2013 levels through 2040 in all the AEO2015 cases, but these imports do increase in response to higher natural gas prices in the latter part of the projection period.

Regional variations in domestic crude oil and dry natural gas production can force significant shifts in crude oil and natural gas flows between U.S. regions, requiring investment in or realignment of pipelines and other midstream infrastructure

U.S. crude oil and dry natural gas production levels have increased rapidly in recent years. From 2008 to 2013, crude oil production grew from 5.0 million bbl/d to 7.4 million bbl/d, and annual dry natural gas production grew from 20.2 Tcf to 24.3 Tcf. All the AEO2015 cases project continued growth in U.S. dry natural gas production, whereas crude oil production continues to increase but eventually declines in all cases except the High Oil and Gas Resource case. In most of the cases, Lower 48 onshore crude oil production shows the strongest growth in the Dakotas/Rocky Mountains region (which includes the Bakken formation), followed by the Southwest region (which includes the Permian Basin) (Figure ES6). The strongest growth of dry natural gas production in the Lower 48 onshore in most of the AEO2015 cases occurs in the East region (which includes the Marcellus Shale and Utica Shale), followed by the Gulf Coast onshore region and the Dakotas/Rocky Mountains region. Interregional flows to serve downstream markets vary significantly among the different cases.

In the High Oil Price case, higher prices for crude oil and increased demand for LNG support higher levels of Lower 48 onshore crude oil and dry natural gas production than in the Reference case. Production in the High Oil Price case is exceeded only in the High Oil and Gas Resource case, where greater availability of oil and natural gas resources leads to more rapid production growth. The higher production levels in the High Oil Price and High Oil and Gas Resource cases are sustained through the entire projection period. Onshore Lower 48 crude oil production in 2040 drops below its 2013 level only in the Low Oil Price case, which also shows the lowest growth of dry natural gas production.

Crude oil imports into the East Coast and Midwest Petroleum Administration for Defense Districts (PADDs) 1 and 2 grow from 2013 to 2040 in all cases except the High Oil and Gas Resource case. All cases, including the High Oil and Gas Resource case, maintain significant crude oil imports into the Gulf Coast (PADD 3) and West Coast (PADD 5) through 2040. The Dakotas/Rocky Mountains (PADD 4) has significant crude oil imports only through 2040 in the High Oil Price case. The high levels of crude oil imports in all cases except the High Oil and Gas Resource case support growing levels of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel exports as U.S. refineries continue to have a competitive advantage over refineries in the rest of the world. The High Oil and Gas Resource case is the only case with significant crude oil exports, which occur as a result of additional crude oil exports to Canada. The High Oil and Gas Resource case also shows significantly higher amounts of natural gas flowing out of the Mid-Atlantic and Dakotas/Rocky Mountains regions than most other cases, and higher LNG exports out of the Gulf Coast than any other case.


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U.S. energy consumption grows at a modest rate over the projection with reductions in energy intensity resulting from improved technologies and from policies in place

U.S. energy consumption grows at a relatively modest rate over the AEO2015 projection period, averaging 0.3%/ year from 2013 through 2040 in the Reference case. The transportation and residential sector’s decreases in energy consumption (less than 2% over the entire projection period) contrast with growth in other sectors. The strongest energy consumption growth is projected for the industrial sector, at 0.7%/year. Declines in energy consumption tend to result from the adoption of more energy-efficient technologies and policies that promote energy efficiency. Increases tend to result from other factors, such as economic growth and the relatively low energy prices that result from an abundance of supplies.

Near-zero growth in energy consumption is a relatively recent phenomenon, and substantial uncertainty is associated with specific aspects of U.S. energy consumption in the AEO2015 projections. This uncertainty is especially relevant as the United States continues to recover from the latest economic recession and resumes more normal economic growth. Although demand for energy often grew with economic recoveries during the second half of the 20th century, technology and policy factors currently are acting in combination to dampen growth in energy consumption.

The AEO2015 alternative cases demonstrate these dynamics. The High and Low Economic Growth cases project higher and lower levels of travel demand, respectively, and of energy consumption growth, while holding policy and technology assumptions constant. In the High Economic Growth case and the High Oil and Gas Resource case, energy consumption growth (0.6%/year and 0.5%/year, respectively) is higher than in the Reference case. Energy consumption growth in the Low Economic Growth case is lower than in the Reference case (nearly flat). In the High Oil Price case, it is higher than in the Reference case, at 0.5%/year, mainly as a result of increased domestic energy production and more consumption of diesel fuel for freight transportation and trucking.

In the AEO2015 Reference case, as a result of increasingly stringent fuel economy standards, gasoline consumption in the transportation sector in 2040 is 21% lower than in 2013. In contrast, diesel fuel consumption, largely for freight transportation and trucking, grows at an average rate of 0.8%/year from 2013 to 2040, as economic growth results in more shipments of goods. Because the United States consumes more gasoline than diesel fuel, the pattern of gasoline consumption strongly influences the overall trend of energy consumption in the transportation sector (Figure ES7).


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Industrial energy use rises with growth of shale gas supply

Production of dry natural gas and natural gas plant liquids (NGPL) in the United States has increased markedly over the past few years, and the upward production trend continues in the AEO2015 Reference, High Oil Price, and High Oil and Gas Resource cases, with the High Oil and Gas Resource case showing the strongest growth in production of both dry natural gas and NGPL. Sustained high levels of dry natural gas and NGPL production at prices that are attractive to industry in all three cases contribute to the growth of industrial energy consumption over the 2013-40 projection period and expand the range of fuel and feedstock choices.

Increased supply of natural gas from shale resources and the associated liquids contributes to lower prices for natural gas and hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL), which support higher levels of industrial output. The energy-intensive bulk chemicals industry benefits from lower prices for fuel (primarily natural gas) and feedstocks (natural gas and HGL), as consumption of natural gas and HGL feedstocks increases by more than 50% from 2013 to 2040 in the Reference case, mostly as a result of growth in the total capacity of U.S. methanol, ammonia (mostly for nitrogenous fertilizers), and ethylene catalytic crackers. Increased availability of HGL leads to much slower growth in the use of heavy petroleum-based naphtha feedstocks compared to the lighter HGL feedstocks (ethane, propane, and butane). With sustained low HGL prices, the feedstock slate continues to favor HGL at unprecedented levels.

Other energy-intensive industries, such as primary metals and pulp and paper, also benefit from the availability and pricing of dry natural gas production from shale resources. However, factors other than lower natural gas and HGL prices, such as changes in nonenergy costs and export demand, also play significant roles in increasing manufacturing output.[10]

Manufacturing gross output in the High Oil and Gas Resource case is only slightly higher than in the Reference case, and most of the difference in industrial natural gas use between the two cases is attributable to the mining industry—specifically, oil and gas extraction. With increased extraction activity in the High Oil and Gas Resource case, natural gas consumption for lease and plant use in 2040 is 1.6 quadrillion Btu (68%) higher than in the Reference case.

Increased production of dry natural gas from shale resources(e.g., as seen in the High Oil and Gas Resource case relative to the Reference case) leads to a lower natural gas price, which leads to more natural gas use for combined heat and power (CHP) generation in the industrial sector. In 2040, natural gas use for CHP generation is 12% higher in the High Oil and Gas Resource case than in the Reference case, reflecting the higher levels of dry natural gas production. Finally, the increased supply of dry natural gas from shale resources leads to the increased use of natural gas to meet heat and power needs in the industrial sector.

Renewables meet much of the growth in electricity demand

Renewable electricity generation in the AEO2015 Reference case increases by 72% from 2013 to 2040, accounting for more than one-third of new generation capacity. The renewable share of total generation grows from 13% in 2013 to 18% in 2040. Federal tax credits and state renewable portfolio standards that do not expire (sunset) continue to drive the relatively robust near-term growth of nonhydropower renewable sources, with total renewable generation increasing by 25% from 2013 to 2018. However, from 2018 through about 2030, the growth of renewable capacity moderates, as relatively slow growth of electricity demand reduces the need for new generation capacity. In addition, the combination of relatively low natural gas prices and the expiration of several key federal and state policies results in a challenging economic environment for renewables. After 2030, renewable capacity growth again accelerates, as natural gas prices increase over time and renewables become increasingly cost-competitive in some regions.

Wind and solar generation account for nearly two-thirds of the increase in total renewable generation in the AEO2015 Reference case. Solar photovoltaic (PV) technology is the fastest-growing energy source for renewable generation, at an annual average rate of 6.8%. Wind energy accounts for the largest absolute increase in renewable generation and for 40.0% of the growth in renewable generation from 2013 to 2038, displacing hydropower and becoming the largest source of renewable generation by 2040. PV capacity accounts for nearly all the growth in solar generation, split between the electric power sector and the end-use sectors (e.g., distributed or customer-sited generation). Geothermal generation grows at an average annual rate of about 5.5% over the projection period, but because geothermal resources are concentrated geographically, the growth is limited to the western United States. Biomass generation increases by an average of 3.1%/year, led by cofiring at existing coal plants through about 2030. After 2030, new dedicated biomass plants account for most of the growth in generation from biomass energy sources.

In the High Economic Growth and High Oil Price cases, renewable generation growth exceeds the levels in the Reference case— more than doubling from 2013 to 2040 in both cases (Figure ES8), primarily as a result of increased demand for new generation capacity in the High Economic Growth case and relatively more expensive competing fuel prices in the High Oil Price case. In the Low Economic Growth and Low Oil Price cases, with slower load growth and lower natural gas prices, the overall increase in renewable generation from 2013 to 2040 is somewhat smaller than in the Reference case but still grows by 49% and 61%, respectively, from 2013 to 2040. Wind and solar PV generation in the electric power sector, the sector most affected by renewable electric generation, account for most of the variation across the alternative cases in the later years of the projections.


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Electricity prices increase with rising fuel costs and expenditures on electric transmission and distribution infrastructure

In the AEO2015 Reference case, increasing costs of electric power generation and transmission and distribution, coupled with relatively slow growth of electricity sales (averaging 0.7%/year), result in an 18% increase in the average retail price of electricity (in real 2013 dollars) over the projection period. In the Reference case, prices increase from 10.1 cents/kilowatthour (kWh) in 2013 to 11.8 cents/kWh in 2040. In comparison, over the same period, the largest increase in retail electricity prices (28%) is in the High Oil Price case (to 12.9 cents/kWh in 2040), and the smallest increase (2%) is in the High Oil and Gas Resource case (to 10.3 cents/kWh in 2040). Electricity prices are determined by economic conditions, efficiency of energy use, competitiveness of electricity supply, investment in new generation capacity, investment in transmission and distribution infrastructure, and the costs of operating and maintaining plants in service. Those factors vary in the alternative cases.

Fuel costs (mostly for coal and natural gas) account for the largest portion of generation costs in consumer electricity bills. In 2013, coal accounted for 44% and natural gas accounted for 42% of the total fuel costs for electricity generation. In the AEO2015 Reference case, coal accounts for 35% and natural gas for 55% of total fuel costs in 2040. Coal prices rise on average by 0.8% per year and natural gas prices by 2.4%/year in the Reference case, compared with 1.3%/year and 3.1%/year, respectively, in the High Oil Price case and 0.5%/year and 0.2%/year, respectively, in the High Oil and Gas Resource case.

There has been a fivefold increase in investment in new electricity transmission capacity in the United States since 1997, as well as large increases in spending for distribution capacity. Although investments in new transmission and distribution capacity do not continue at the same rates in AEO2015, spending continues on additional transmission and distribution capacity to connect to new renewable energy sources; improvements in the reliability and resiliency of the grid; enhancements to community aesthetics (underground lines); and smart grid construction.

The average annual rate of growth in U.S. electricity use (including sales and direct use) has slowed from 9.8% in the 1950s to 0.5% over the past decade. Factors contributing to the lower rate of growth include slower population growth, market saturation of electricity-intensive appliances, improvements in the efficiency of household appliances, and a shift in the economy toward a larger share of consumption in less energy-intensive industries. In the AEO2015 Reference case,
U.S. electricity use grows by an average of 0.8%/year from 2013 to 2040.

Energy-related CO2 emissions stabilize with improvements in the energy intensity and carbon intensity of electricity generation

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2013 totaled 5,405 million metric tons (mt).[11] In the AEO2015 Reference case, CO2 emissions increase by 144 million mt (2.7%) from 2013 to 2040, to 5,549 million mt—still 444 million mt below the 2005 level of 5,993 million mt. Among the AEO2015 alternative cases, total emissions in 2040 range from a high of 5,979 million mt in the High Economic Growth case to a low of 5,160 million mt in the Low Economic Growth case.

In the Reference case:

  • CO2 emissions from the electric power sector increase by an average of 0.2%/year from 2013 to 2040, as a result of relatively slow growth in electricity sales (averaging 0.7%/year) and increasing substitution of lower-carbon fuels, such as natural gas and renewable energy sources, for coal in electricity generation.
  • CO2 emissions from the transportation sector decline by an average of 0.2%/year, with overall improvements in vehicle energy efficiency offsetting increased travel demand, growth in diesel consumption in freight trucks, and consumer's preference for larger, less-efficient vehicles as a result of the lower fuel prices that accompany strong growth of domestic oil and dry natural gas production.
  • CO2 emissions from the industrial sector increase by an average of 0.5%/year, reflecting a resurgence of industrial activity fueled by low energy prices, particularly for natural gas and HGL feedstocks in the bulk chemical sector.
  • CO2 emissions from the residential sector decline by an average of 0.2%/year, with improvements in appliance and building shell efficiencies more than offsetting growth in housing units.
  • CO2 emissions from the commercial sector increase by an average of 0.3%/year even with improvements in equipment and building shell efficiency, as a result of increased electricity consumption resulting from the growing proliferation of data centers and electric devices, such as networking equipment and video displays, as well as greater use of natural gas-fueled combined heat and power distributed generation.

Endnotes

  1. Liquid fuels (or petroleum and other liquids) includes crude oil and products of petroleum refining, natural gas liquids, biofuels, and liquids derived from other hydrocarbon sources (including coal-to-liquids and gas-to-liquids).
  2. Net product imports includes trade in crude oil and petroleum products.
  3. The U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security has determined that condensate which has been processed through a distillate tower can be exported without licensing.
  4. Naphtha is a refined or semi-refined petroleum fraction used in chemical feedstocks and many other petroleum products. For a complete definition, see www.eia.gov/tools/glossary/index.cfm?id=naphtha.
  5. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units," Federal Register, pp. 34829-34958 (Washington, DC: June 18, 2014) https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/06/18/2014-13726/carbonpollution- emission-guidelines-for-existing-stationary-sources-electric-utility-generating.
  6. AEO2015 incorporates the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) updated 2007 input-output table, released at the end of December 2013. See U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, “Industry Economic Accounts Information Guide (Washington, DC: December 18, 2014), http://www.bea.gov/industry/iedguide.htm#aia.
  7. E. Sendich, "The Importance of Natural Gas in the Industrial Sector With a Focus on Energy-Intensive Industries," EIA Working Paper (February 28, 2014), http://www.eia.gov/workingpapers/pdf/natgas_indussector.pdf.
  8. Based on EIA, Monthly Energy Review (November 2014), and reported here for consistency with data and other calculations in the AEO2015 tables. The 2013 total was subsequently updated to 5,363 million metric tons in EIA's February 2015 Monthly Energy Review, DOE/EIA-0035(2015/02), http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/archive/00351502.pdf.

Sections in this chapter

Reference Case Tables
Table 1. Total Energy Supply, Disposition, and Price Summary
Table 2. Energy Consumption by Sector and Source - United States
Table 3. Energy Prices by Sector and Source - United States
Table 4. Residential Sector Key Indicators and Consumption
Table 5. Commercial Sector Key Indicators and Consumption
Table 6. Industrial Sector Key Indicators and Consumption
Table 7. Transportation Sector Key Indicators and Delivered Energy Consumption
Table 8. Electricity Supply, Disposition, Prices, and Emissions
Table 9. Electricity Generating Capacity
Table 10. Electricity Trade
Table 11. Petroleum and Other Liquids Supply and Disposition
Table 12. Petroleum and Other Liquids Prices
Table 13. Natural Gas Supply, Disposition, and Prices
Table 14. Oil and Gas Supply
Table 15. Coal Supply, Disposition, and Prices
Table 16. Renewable Energy Generating Capacity and Generation
Table 17. Renewable Energy Consumption by Sector and Source
Table 18. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Sector and Source - United States
Table 19. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions by End Use
Table 20. Macroeconomic Indicators
Table 21. International Petroleum and Other Liquids Supply, Disposition, and Prices