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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: June 9, 2015  |  Next Release Date: July 7, 2015  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures

Renewables and CO2 Emissions

Electricity and Heat Generation from Renewables

EIA expects renewables used in the electric power sector will grow by 2.6% in 2015, as conventional hydropower generation decreases by 1.9%, while nonhydropower renewable power generation increases 6.9%. The 2015 decrease in hydropower generation reflects the effects of the California drought, which are only partially offset by use of hydropower elsewhere. Generation from hydropower is expected to increase by 5.4% in 2016. Total renewables consumption for electric power and heat generation decreases by 1.1% in 2015 but increases by 5.6% in 2016.

EIA expects continued growth in utility-scale solar power generation, which is projected to average 85 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 86% between the end of 2014 and the end of 2016, with more than half of this new capacity being built in California. Other leading states include North Carolina, Nevada, Texas, and Utah, which, combined with California, account for more than 90% of the projected utility-scale capacity additions for 2015 and 2016. According to current law, projects coming online after the end of next year will see a federal investment tax credit of 10%, well 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 8.2% in 2014, is forecast to increase by 12.9% in 2015 and by 12.0% 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 almost twice that of solar: 17 GW of wind compared with 9 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) targets for 2014 through 2016. Although these targets 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, averaging 936,000 b/d in 2015 and 933,000 b/d in 2016. Ethanol consumption, which averaged 878,000 b/d in 2014, is forecast to average 891,000 b/d in 2015 and 896,000 b/d in 2016, resulting in an average 9.9% ethanol share of the total gasoline pool in 2015 and 2016. EIA does not expect measurable 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 increase in ethanol gross imports, net exports of ethanol are expected to fall from 51,000 b/d in 2014 to 44,000 b/d in 2015 and 36,000 b/d in 2016.

EIA expects the biggest effect of the proposed RFS targets to be on biomass-based diesel 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 90,000 b/d in 2015 and 98,000 b/d in 2016, which are 9,000 b/d and 14,000 b/d higher than in last month's STEO, respectively. Net imports of biomass-based diesel are also expected to increase from 16,000 b/d in 2014 to 26,000 b/d in 2015 and 35,000 b/d in 2016, which are 9,000 b/d and 19,000 b/d higher than in last month's STEO, respectively. 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 targets through 2016.

Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions

EIA estimates that emissions grew by 1.0% in 2014. Emissions are projected to decrease by 0.4% in 2015 and then rise by 0.2% in 2016. These forecasts are sensitive to both weather and economic assumptions.

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 0.221 0.222
Hydropowera 2.562 2.469 2.423 2.552
Solar 0.305 0.427 0.524 0.607
Waste Biomass 0.496 0.488 0.497 0.508
Wind 1.596 1.729 1.807 2.056
Wood Biomass 2.170 2.214 1.991 1.939
Electricity Subtotalb 7.344 7.548 7.483 7.878
Biomass-based Diesel 0.205 0.196 0.219 0.261
Ethanol 1.090 1.109 1.126 1.136
Biofuels Subtotal 1.296 1.306 1.346 1.397
Otherc 0.709 0.758 0.754 0.758
Total 9.349 9.612 9.583 10.033
Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Fuel (million metric tons)
Petroleum and Other Liquid Fuels 2231 2249 2278 2283
Natural Gas 1401 1441 1498 1506
Coal 1718 1713 1606 1605
Total Fossil Fuels 5350 5403 5383 5394

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