This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

January 09, 2002

Future U.S. Energy Use Depends on Efficiency, Renewables

U.S. energy demand is expected to increase 32 percent from 2000 to 2020, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA), but the forecast could change with faster or slower penetration of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. That conclusion is part of the EIA's Annual Outlook 2002, released in late December.

Energy efficiency is measured at the national level by "energy intensity," that is, the amount of energy used per dollar of gross domestic product (GDP). The EIA reference case — often referred to as the "business as usual" case — already projects a steady decline in energy intensity of 1.5 percent per year through 2020 due to energy efficiency technologies. But a more rapid development and market penetration of these technologies could lower the U.S. energy demand in 2020 by 6 percent compared to the EIA reference case.

The EIA report also examined the effect of extending the production tax credit to the end of 2006. The tax credit expired last month (see first story above). The report also assumed the tax credit eligibility would be expanded — it currently applies only to wind power and biomass facilities that draw on dedicated energy crops, but the EIA assumed it would be expanded to include all biomass and landfill gas facilities. That change would boost the production of electricity from renewable energy by nearly 50 percent by 2020 — increasing from the reference case projection of 15,000 megawatts to a total of about 22,000 megawatts. See the EIA press release.

Looking for a more forward-looking energy projection? The Royal Dutch/Shell Group recently issued its look at the energy picture through 2050. The publication, "Energy Needs, Choices and Possibilities," examines two possible scenarios for future energy development — one in which there is an evolutionary progression to new energy sources, and one in which society moves toward a hydrogen economy. Both scenarios project a significant growth in renewable energy by 2050. See the full report, (PDF 323 KB) Download Acrobat Reader