The renewables safe sources of energy that never run out are coming! And if it was braggin’ time for wind when wind power hit 1.25% of U.S. electricity generation in 2008, what’ll it be in 2012, when it hits 5%, as projected by the Energy Information Administration? Well, it’s probably time for a tougher renewable energy standard than the Senate is considering.
Significantly, the EIA, which is the DOE’s independent analytical arm, is no fan of safe sources of energy that never run out. When I was at the DOE in the mid-1990s, we uncovered a key reason there was so little wind in EIA’s modeling of federal climate action: Their original forecast had in fact shown a huge upsurge, so the EIA analysts tweaked the model to artificially suppress wind. And today, the EIA is run by my old friend, Howard Gruenspecht, who was a Bush Sr. holdover at DOE’s office of policy when I started there in 1992 and a Bush, Jr. appointee at EIA. He ain’t progressive. Obama should replace him. But I digress.
So it is all the more shocking that EIA’s remarkable, if little noted, report from last month, Updated Annual Energy Outlook 2009 Reference Case Reflecting Provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Recent Changes in the Economic Outlook projected this response to the Obama stimulus package:
Note that non-hydro renewables are about 9% of supply in 2020. You can find all the year-by-year projections here (see Table 15, “Renewable Energy Generating Capacity and Generation”).
Now you can pretty much ignore the post-2012 projections by EIA since they have self-inflicted myopia — EIA’s basic forecasts assume “no further energy and climate policy” and “no peak oil.” For instance, their analysis notes “wind capacity growth is projected to slow significantly after the expiration of the Federal tax credits in 2012.”
Slow significantly? That’s an understatement. EIA projects U.S. wind capacity rising from about 25 GW in 2008 to 66 GW in 2014 — but then to only 68 GW in 2030!
Anybody want to bet me that wind capacity will grow 2 GW from 2015 to 2030? Didn’t think so. Seriously EIA — how do you expect anyone to take you seriously?
And EIA projects solar thermal power in 2014 will be … wait for it … 790 MW, and in 2030 … wait even longer and longer for it … 860 MW. Like I said, EIA does not like renewables — even those with power purchase agreements (see “World’s largest solar plant with thermal storage to be built in Arizona — total of 8500 MW of this core climate solution planned for 2014 in U.S. alone“).
Needless to say, they assume no climate bill and thus no price for carbon dioxide.
And here is their oil price forecast:
And people say I’m an optimist!
For oil to be significantly below $200 a barrel in 2020 would take a miracle — or rather 6 miracles see “Science/IEA: World oil crunch looming? Not if we can find six Saudi Arabias!” and “IEA says oil will peak in 2020“). See also “Merrill: Non-OPEC production has likely peaked, oil output could fall by 30 million bpd by 2015“).
So let’s ignore 2013 on. I’m not sure EIA has ever made an accurate long-term or even medium-term forecast. The taxpayers could be saved a lot of money if Congress stopped funding EIA to do them.
Now EIA is it certainly much better at short-term forecasts, and this forecast in particular has credibility because it is the energy equivalent of a “declaration against interest,” in this case of finding that cuts against the underlying assumptions of EIA’s modeling. In other words, it is probably a lowball estimate, even in 2012, and certainly past then. Here are some of their near-term predictions:
A significant expansion in the use of renewable fuels for electricity generation, particularly in the near-term. The extension of key Federal tax credits and the new loan guarantee program in ARRA both stimulate increased renewable generation relative to the published AEO2009 reference case and the no-stimulus case (Figure 1).
By 2012, wind generation with the ARRA is expected to be more than twice that projected in the no-stimulus case, 201 billion kilowatthours compared to 86 billion kilowatthours and estimated generation of 53 billion kilowatthours in 2008. Although wind capacity growth is projected to slow significantly after the expiration of the Federal tax credits in 2012 (!), by 2030 total installed wind capacity is projected to be 67 percent greater because of the ARRA-stimulated growth than in the no-stimulus case.
Geothermal capacity is also projected to grow significantly more than in the nostimulus case. Installed geothermal capacity in 2013 is 16 percent greater in the updated reference case with ARRA than in the no-stimulus case, 3.0 gigawatts, compared with 2.6 gigawatts.
Projected additions of new biomass capacity are also accelerated by the renewable electricity provisions of the ARRA, and by 2030, projected installed capacity is 18 percent higher compared to the no-stimulus case.
Bottom line: Safe sources of energy that never run out have come of age and are poised to be a dominant force on the marketplace in the next few years.
And if EIA knew its ass from its elbow, it’d be able to put out a medium term forecast (i.e. 2020) for renewables that wasn’t so laughable.
And if the Senate energy committee were serious about putting out a stretch goal for renewables, they certainly would not be embracing a standard that requires a mere 11% renewables from 2021 through 2039, with another 4% from efficiency.
And yes, Waxman-Markey is hardly much better, requiringly only 15 percent by 2020 (plus 5 percent energy savings from efficiency) — with an escape clause letting governors drop the renewable target to 12 percent for a state by ruling utilities can’t meet the mandate.
C’mon guys and gals. Let’s get serious about pushing safe sources of energy that never run out.