Coal power still tops through 2040: EIA

Despite a growing focus on building new natural gas-fired power plants in the U.S., coal-fired plants will remain the largest source of power generation in the country through 2040, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. 

According to an expanded section of the Annual Energy Outlook 2013 released Monday, coal-fired energy will provide 35 percent of power generation in 2040, which is a decrease from providing 42 percent of power generation in 2011. Over that time, the EIA states about 15 percent of coal-fired capacity active in 2011 to retire, while only 4 percent of new generation capacity added will be coal-fired.

 Although natural gas will provide less generation than coal, the EIA states total natural gas-fired generation will increase by an average of 1.6 percent per year from 2011 to 2040. In 2040, natural gas will provide 30 percent of power generation, an increase from 24 percent in 2011.

 The report projects generation from renewable resources to grow by 1.7 percent per year, with the generation rising from 13 percent of total generation in 2011 to 16 percent in 2040. Most of the additional renewable energy generation will be from non-hydropower sources, with the non-hydropower share of total renewable energy generation increasing from 38 percent in 2011 to 65 percent in 2040.

 Nuclear power generation is projected to increase by 0.5 percent per year, although the share of total nuclear generation will decline from 19 percent in 2011 to 17 percent in 2040 because its growth will be outpaced by growth in natural gas-fired generation and renewable energy.

 The EIA also predicts the majority of new capacity developed between 2012 and 2040 will be provided by natural gas-fired plants. According to the report, 63 percent of power capacity additions will be provided by natural gas-fired plants, while renewable energy will account for 31 percent. Coal-fired power and nuclear power will each account for 3 percent of new power capacity during that time period.

The market trends projects are part of the full release of the EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook, which expands on the initial report issued in December 2012. The administration will release additional sections over the next several weeks, with the full report being made available on May 2.

The release for Monday included a Legislation and Regulations section, a Markets Trend section and a comparison of Annual Energy Outlook 2013 with projections from other organizations. Future sections will include topics such as U.S. reliance on imported liquid fuels, competition between coal and natural gas in the electric power sector, nuclear power in Annual Energy Outlook 2013 and the impact of natural gas liquids growth.