By Editors of Power Engineering
Though electricity demand fell last year, the new long-term energy outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicated demand is set for an average annual growth of 0.9 percent through 2050.
However, the administration predicted direct-use generation will outpace the growth of utility-based generation thanks to rooftop solar and natural gas-fired combined heat and power systems.
Electricity prices are set to stay relatively flat, ranging between 10.6 cents and 11.8 cents per kWh, depending on the amount of economic growth and the performance of oil and gas prices and availability.
In all cases, generation costs are set to fall by 10 percent over the study period in response to low natural gas prices and increased generation from renewables. Transmission costs will grow 24 percent and distribution will grow 25 percent thanks to the need to replace aging infrastructure and accommodate new reliability standards.
Natural gas will remain the top fuel source for generation in most scenarios, though a scenario with low oil and gas resources and technology would see it drop below coal and renewables.
Nonhydro renewable generation is expected to grow by an average of 139 percent through 2050, with 94 percent coming from solar and wind. Total wind capacity is expected to increase by 20 GW, with solar increasing by 127 GW. Energy storage systems are set to grow by 34 GW.
Coal’s decline, which recorded a loss of 60 GW between 2011 and 2016, will become less sharp with an expected 65 GW lost through 2030. EIA expects coal to level off at a total of 190 GW through 2050.
Nuclear energy, which remained nearly steady over the last decade, will start a continued decline thanks to lower revenues that will be especially sharp in the high oil and gas resource and technology scenario. On average, nuclear generation is set to fall from 99 GW now to 79 GW in 2050, with no new plant additions expected after 2020.