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Short-Term Energy and Winter Fuels Outlook

Release Date: October 6, 2015  |  Next Release Date: November 10, 2015  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures

Renewables and Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Electricity and Heat Generation from Renewables

EIA expects total renewables used in the electric power sector to decrease by 2.7% in 2015. Conventional hydropower generation is forecast to decrease by 9.7%, and nonhydropower renewable power generation is forecast to increase by 4.0%. The 2015 decrease in hydropower generation reflects the effects of the California drought. Forecast generation from hydropower in the electric power sector increases by 7.3% in 2016.

EIA expects continued growth in utility-scale solar power generation, which is projected to average 89 gigawatthours per day (GWh/d) in 2016. Because the growth is from a small base, utility-scale solar power averages 0.8% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2016. Although solar growth has historically been concentrated in customer-sited distributed generation installations (rooftop panels), EIA expects utility-scale solar capacity will increase by more than 100% (11 GW) between the end of 2014 and the end of 2016, with 4.4 GW of new capacity being built in California. Other leading states in utility-scale solar capacity include North Carolina and Nevada, which, combined with California, account for almost 70% of the projected utility-scale capacity additions for 2015 and 2016.

Wind capacity, which starts from a significantly larger installed capacity base than solar, grew by 8% in 2014, and is forecast to increase by 13% annually in both 2015 and 2016.

Liquid Biofuels

On May 29, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule setting Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2014 through 2016. Although these volumes could be modified before the final rule is issued, they are used in developing the current STEO forecast. Ethanol production, which averaged 934,000 b/d in 2014, is forecast to average more than 950,000 b/d in both 2015 and 2016. Ethanol consumption, which averaged 877,000 b/d in 2014, is forecast to average slightly more than 900,000 b/d in both 2015 and 2016, resulting in an average 9.9% ethanol share of the total gasoline pool. EIA does not expect significant increases in E15 or E85 consumption over the forecast period. The proposed RFS targets could encourage imports of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, which were 3,000 b/d in 2014.

EIA expects the largest effect of the proposed RFS targets will be on biodiesel consumption, which contributes to meeting the biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and total renewable fuel RFS targets. Biodiesel production averaged an estimated 83,000 b/d in 2014 and is forecast to average 92,000 b/d in 2015 and 98,000 b/d in 2016. Net imports of biomass-based diesel are also expected to increase from 15,000 b/d in 2014 to 25,000 b/d in 2015, and to 35,000 b/d in 2016.

Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions

EIA estimates that emissions of CO2 grew by 1.0% in 2014. Emissions are projected to fall by 0.7% in 2015 and then increase by 0.2% in 2016. These forecasts are sensitive to assumptions about weather and economic growth.

U.S. Renewables & CO2 Emissions Summary
  2013 2014 2015 2016
a Conventional hydroelectric power only. Hydroelectricity generated by pumped storage is not included in renewable energy.
b Includes electricity and heat generation
c Other renewables includes biofuels production losses and co-products
U.S. Renewables Consumption (quadrillion Btu)
Geothermal 0.214 0.222 0.228 0.237
Hydropowera 2.562 2.469 2.229 2.389
Solar 0.305 0.427 0.520 0.622
Waste Biomass 0.496 0.488 0.494 0.503
Wind 1.596 1.729 1.760 2.038
Wood Biomass 2.170 2.214 2.042 1.992
Electricity Subtotalb 7.344 7.548 7.258 7.774
Biomass-based Diesel 0.205 0.198 0.225 0.261
Ethanol 1.090 1.107 1.139 1.144
Biofuels Subtotal 1.296 1.305 1.363 1.405
Otherc 0.709 0.757 0.765 0.772
Total 9.349 9.610 9.383 9.951
Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Fuel (million metric tons)
Petroleum and Other Liquid Fuels 2231 2252 2282 2293
Natural Gas 1401 1441 1499 1509
Coal 1718 1713 1587 1577
Total Fossil Fuels 5350 5406 5369 5379

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