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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: August 11, 2015  |  Next Release Date: September 9, 2015  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures

Renewables and CO2 Emissions

Electricity and Heat Generation from Renewables

EIA expects total renewables used in the electric power sector will decrease by 2.6% in 2015. Conventional hydropower generation is forecast to decrease by 9.9%, and nonhydropower renewable power generation is forecast to increase by 4.5%. The 2015 decrease in hydropower generation reflects the effects of the California drought, which are only partially offset by growth in hydropower use elsewhere. Generation from hydropower in the electric power sector is expected to increase by 12.3% in 2016. Total renewables consumption for electric power and heat generation decreases by 4.0% in 2015 and increases by 7.6% in 2016.

EIA expects continued growth in utility-scale solar power generation, which is projected to average 87 gigawatthours per day (GWh/d) in 2016. Because the growth is from a small base, utility-scale solar power averages only 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 almost 100% (10 GW) between the end of 2014 and the end of 2016, with 3.9 GW of this 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. Power plant developers have notified EIA of plans to construct 13 projects in Georgia (totaling 607 MW) with expected 2015 or 2016 in-service dates. Five of these new projects (166 MW) will be built on U.S. military bases. Georgia currently has 66 MW of utility-scale solar capacity. According to current law, projects coming online after the end of 2016 will see a federal investment tax credit of 10%, below the 30% investment tax credit available for projects that come online before the end of 2016. This impending decline in the tax credit provides a strong incentive for projects to enter service before the end of 2016.

Wind capacity, which grew by 8% in 2014, is forecast to increase by 12% in 2015 and by 14% in 2016. Because wind is starting from a much larger base than solar, even though the growth rate is lower, the absolute increase in wind capacity is twice that of solar: 18 GW of wind compared with 10 GW of utility-scale solar between 2014 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. Ethanol production, which averaged 935,000 b/d in 2014, is forecast to remain near current levels in 2015 and 2016. Ethanol consumption, which averaged 878,000 b/d in 2014, is forecast to average about 900,000 b/d in both 2015 and 2016, resulting in an average 9.9% ethanol share of the total gasoline pool those years. EIA does not expect significant increases in E15 or E85 consumption over the forecast period. The proposed RFS targets are expected to encourage imports of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol, which were just 3,000 b/d in 2014. Because of the expected increase in ethanol gross imports, net exports of ethanol are forecast to fall from 51,000 b/d in 2014 to 43,000 b/d in 2015, and to 37,000 b/d in 2016.

EIA expects the largest effect of the proposed RFS targets to 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 81,000 b/d in 2014 and is forecast to average 91,000 b/d in 2015 and 98,000 b/d in 2016. Net imports of biomass-based diesel are also expected to increase from 16,000 b/d in 2014 to 24,000 b/d in 2015, and to 35,000 b/d in 2016. EIA expects that a combination of higher biomass-based diesel consumption, higher consumption of domestic and imported ethanol, and banked Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) will help meet the newly proposed RFS volumes through 2016.

Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions

EIA estimates that emissions grew by 1.0% in 2014. Emissions are projected to fall by 0.2% in 2015 and then rise by 0.7% in 2016. These forecasts are sensitive to both weather and economic assumptions. Monthly carbon dioxide emissions from the electric power sector were at a 27-year low in April, which is typically the month with the lowest generation level in each year.

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 0.222 0.220
Hydropowera 2.562 2.469 2.227 2.497
Solar 0.305 0.427 0.524 0.613
Waste Biomass 0.496 0.488 0.498 0.508
Wind 1.596 1.729 1.773 2.025
Wood Biomass 2.170 2.214 2.005 1.933
Electricity Subtotalb 7.344 7.548 7.250 7.792
Biomass-based Diesel 0.205 0.196 0.222 0.261
Ethanol 1.090 1.109 1.141 1.146
Biofuels Subtotal 1.296 1.306 1.359 1.407
Otherc 0.709 0.758 0.759 0.765
Total 9.349 9.612 9.362 9.964
Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Fuel (million metric tons)
Petroleum and Other Liquid Fuels 2231 2249 2284 2300
Natural Gas 1401 1441 1504 1505
Coal 1718 1713 1606 1629
Total Fossil Fuels 5350 5403 5394 5434

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