The United States is expected to continue to be a net exporter of energy through 2050 as energy consumption grows at a slower rate than energy production, according to new projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA released Wednesday (Jan. 29) its Annual Energy Outlook 2020, showing its baseline, or reference case, projections.
“We see renewables as the fastest-growing source of electricity generation through 2050 as cost declines make them economically competitive beyond the expiration of existing federal and state policy supports,” said EIA Administrator Linda Capuano. “With continued technologically enabled growth in domestic oil and natural gas production, we see the United States remaining a net exporter of energy for some time.”
The United States became a net exporter of energy on a monthly basis in September 2019 after being a net importer for decades.
Domestic energy demand is expected to rise 0.3% annually through 2050, and this is slower than the average annual increase of 1.9% in U.S. GDP. The continued rise in energy efficiency in the end-use sectors contributed to the projection.
The share of U.S. electricity generation from renewable sources is expected to double from 19% in 2019 to 38% in 2050. Solar will contribute the most to the growth, and it will more than triple from 14% of total renewable generation in 2019 to 46% in 2050. Natural gas generation will retain its share of the electricity generating mix, while coal and nuclear generation will continue to fall.
The United States is expected to continue to produce high levels of crude oil and natural gas as a result of continued development of tight oil and shale gas resources in the East and Southwest regions. U.S. crude oil production is projected to continue to set annual records through the mid-2020s and is expected to remain near 14 million barrels per day through the mid-2040s. U.S. dry natural gas is projected to rise to 45 trillion cubic feet by 2050.
The United States is projected to continue to export more crude oil, petroleum products and natural gas than it imports. Net exports of petroleum and other liquids are expected to reach a peak of more than 3.8 million barrels per day in the early 2030s before falling to 0.2 million barrels per day in 2050 as domestic consumption rises. Liquefied natural gas exports and pipeline exports to Canada and Mexico should continue to rise through the 2020s before becoming flat through 2050.
U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will increase, but by 2050, they are projected to be lower than 2019 levels. The decline can be attributed to retirements of coal-fired generation capacity and changes in the fuel mix for electric power. Increases in energy demand as a result of growth in transportation and industry are expected to cause emissions to increase.
Along with the baseline, or reference case, projections, EIA also has eight side cases that account for uncertainties. Two new cases in the Annual Energy Outlook 2020 look at the implications of varying the assumed future costs of renewable power generation technologies. Link here for the full report.