The second part of the future of energy is the supply side of energy, and how different sources of energy will work together to fuel the our increasing energy demands in 50 years.
There are three big trends, as predicted by the energy information administration, that will shape the supply side of our nation’s energy future. First, coal production is slowing. Second, there’s an increased focus in renewable energy as renewable sources make more environmental and financial sense. Finally, natural gas will become the main source of energy supply over the next 50 years.
1) Coal production not growing as fast
Coal is diminishing as the primary source of energy in America, and will become the second most prominent source in the future of energy over the next 50 years. This is happening for 3 reasons.
First, more and more coal plants are getting older, and being taken offline. This retiring of coal plants mean that less coal is being produced.
Additionally, we’re not building as many new coal plants. So, more coal plants are being taken offline, and the new coal plants are coming online less frequently, which causes a slow decline in coal’s prominence as a source of energy.
When all said and done, coal will drop from producing over 50% of our nation’s energy before the year 2000 to only producing just over 30% in the year 2064.
2) Increasing Renewable
The second driver of energy change on the supply side is an increase in renewable energy. Renewable energy, also called clean energy or green energy, means that the source of energy can easily be replenished- not a fossil fuel (like coal or oil).
Renewable is poised for dramatic growth over the next 50 years, and due in part to strict environmental emissions standards.
Two main sources of renewable interest are solar power and wind power.
Solar power prices have dropped dramatically, making solar more price competitive than ever before.
In fact, solar panels are 99% cheaper than in 1976, and 10% cheaper than just last year. Solar is still small, and only generates a fraction of a percent of US energy, yielding a lot of growth opportunity for solar in the next 50 years.
Learn More: Future of Solar
Wind power, both offshore and onshore, is a growing opportunity for American renewable energy. Wind energy accounted for ~30% of Texas electricity one day recently, the highest ever. That amount of wind energy could power 5 million homes.
Additionally, in Texas, there’s 27,000 MW of wind power under study (basically in the on deck circle of energy) which is double what’s running now.
3) Natural Gas will become primary source of energy
The final big change on the supply side of the energy world is the growth in natural gas. Natural gas is plentiful, abundant, and cheap.
Natural gas currently accounts for 25% of electricity generation, and is the main source of heating homes throughout the country. With a high natural gas demand, low prices, and a projected lot of it, America is building its future on natural gas dependence.
In the year 2040, natural gas is projected to make up 35% of US energy generation, overtaking coal as the main source of energy in the United States. In the year 2000, natural gas accounted for just 16% of US energy generation.
Here’s a chart showing these changes