While US nuclear generating capacity is expected to grow by 11% by 2035, its share of the country's total electricity output will drop slightly, according to a forecast by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA). Coal use will fall significantly during this period, with gas seeing the highest growth.
Preliminary figures for the EIA's Annual Energy Outlook 2012, which will be published later this year, show that "total electricity consumption, including both purchases from electric power producers and on-site generation, grows from 3879 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2010 to 4775 TWh in 2035."
The EIA expects the use of renewable resources to grow in response to federal tax credits, state-level policies, and federal requirements to use more biomass-based transportation fuels, some of which can produce electricity as a by-product of the production process.
According to the EIA, "In recent years, the US electric power sector's historical reliance on coal-fired power plants has begun to decline." It forecasts that coal's share of overall electricity generation will fall to 39% by 2035 from 45% in 2010 "because of slow growth in electricity demand, continued competition from natural gas and renewable plants, and the need to comply with new environmental regulations."
Electricity generation from nuclear power plants is predicted to rise by 11%, from 807 TWh in 2010 to 894 TWh in 2035, accounting for some 18% of total generation in 2035, compared with 20% in 2010. The EIA expects nuclear generating capacity to increase from 101 gigawatts (GWe) in 2010 to a high of 115 GWe in 2025, after which a few reactor retirements result in a decline to 112 GWe in 2035.
Some 10 GWe of new nuclear capacity is projected by 2035, as well as an increase of 7 GWe coming from uprates to existing reactors. About 6 GWe of existing nuclear capacity will be retired, primarily in the last few years of the projection, as "not all owners of existing nuclear capacity apply for and receive licence renewals to operate their plants beyond 60 years."
|Electricity generation by fuel, 1990-2035 (TWh per year) (Image: EIA)
The EIA said, "The share of US electricity generation coming from renewable fuels (including conventional hydropower) grows from 10% in 2010 to 16% in 2035." It noted that the increased generation from renewable energy in the electric power sector, excluding hydropower, accounts for some 33% of the overall growth in electricity generation during this period. The EIA expects the use of renewable resources to grow in response to federal tax credits, state-level policies, and federal requirements to use more biomass-based transportation fuels, some of which can produce electricity as a by-product of the production process.
In his annual State of the Union speech yesterday, President Barack Obama said, "Over the last three years, we've opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I'm directing my administration to open more than 75% of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now, American oil production is the highest its been in eight years ... Not only that, last year we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years."
However, he noted, "With only 2% of the world's oil reserves, oil isn't enough." Obama added, "This country needs an all-out, all-of-the above strategy that develops every available source of American energy."
Fossil fuels will still account for the majority of US electricity generation over the next 25 years, with the share held by coal and gas dropping slightly from 69% in 2010 to 66% in 2035. However, while the use of coal will decrease over this period, the use of natural gas will rise. The USA's production of crude oil has increased over the past few years, the EIA noted, "reversing a decline that began in 1986." Output in 2010 reached 5.5 million barrels per day in 2010, up from 5.1 million in 2007. Domestic oil production is forecast to rise to a peak of 6.7 million barrels per day in 2020, followed by a decline to around 6.1 million by 2035. Meanwhile, US natural gas production is expected to grow from 21.7 trillion cubic feet in 2010 to 27.9 trillion cubic feet in 2035, with shale gas production accounting for much of this growth.
Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) are set to grow by 3% from 2010 to 2035, to a total of 5806 million tonnes in 2035, according to the EIA. However, "They are more than 7% below their 2005 level of 5996 million tonnes in 2020 and are still below the 2005 level at the end of the projection period." The EIA noted, "Given the high carbon content of coal and its use to generate 45% of the US electricity supply in 2010, prospects for CO2 emissions depend, in part, on growth in electricity demand as well as the portion of that demand satisfied by coal-fired generation."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News