- The U.S. Energy Information Administration's latest Short Term Energy Outlook contains a few fascinating numbers, including a couple that will likely irk clean energy cheerleaders. Despite an expected 0.7% decline in energy demand this year, coal generation is expected to rise rise 1%, while coal production jumps 4%.
- The decline in energy production is only temporary, however: EIA forecasts generation will subsequently grow by 1.9% in 2018.
- Looking out a few years there is good news for renewables: EIA says that on a percentage basis, solar power is expected to be the fastest growing renewable energy source in the forecast period.
While the long-term direction of the utility power mix is toward renewables and away from fossil fuels, recent energy market shakeups have numbers jumping around a bit.
Gas traded at historically low prices last year, forcing some coal out of the market. But despite a rash of plant closures, an expected rise in gas prices will send coal generation above gas this winter season.
EIA Acting Administrator Howard Gruenspecht said this winter’s warm weather "is cutting into U.S. natural gas demand, with natural gas consumption during February expected to be the lowest for the month in eight years.”
But also: “While U.S. total electricity generation is expected to decline almost 1% this year, the share of coal-fired generation is forecast to increase.” Coal production was already cut back over the last two years, and so the expected rise in demand will result in a sharp uptick of about 4%.
Wind capacity ended last year at 81 GW, and EIA said it expects that to rise to 95 GW by the end of 2018.
The report predicts utility-scale solar capacity will rise 44% from the end of last year to 31 GW by the end of 2018. That would make solar energy 1.4% of total utility-scale electricity generation in 2018, EIA said.
“Solar power is expected to be the largest growing renewable energy source, with total U.S. electricity generation capacity from solar more than doubling from the end of 2015 to the end of next year," said Gruenspecht.
EIA said gas will make up about 32% of the country's generation this year, down from 34% in 2016, before rebounding somewhat to 33% in 2018%.The decline in gas generation this year is primarily due to a rise in gas commodity prices.