The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s new “Annual Energy Outlook 2014” predicts that below-average annual increases in U.S. electric generating capacity will occur through 2040; most new capacity will be natural gas-fired facilities.
The report projects 351 gigawatts (GW) of new electric generating additions between 2013–2040 in the electric power sector and end-use sectors. Near-term additions through 2016 average 16 GW per year, followed by additions of less than 9 GW per year through 2022, as existing generating plants will be sufficient to meet expected demand growth in most regions.
A boom of new natural gas-fired plants began in 2000, largely driven by independent power producers in response to deregulation in the electric power sector. U.S. electric generating capacity additions averaged 35 GW annually from 2000 to 2005. Almost all the capacity added during those years was natural gas-fired, and about two-thirds used efficient combined-cycle technology.
From 2006 to 2012, annual average capacity additions dropped to 19 GW, with 42 percent of additions representing renewable technologies and 45 percent representing natural gas-fired technologies. The renewable additions were primarily wind plants built to take advantage of federal tax incentives and help meet state renewable portfolio standards.
In the report, natural gas-fired plants account for 73 percent of capacity additions (255 GW) from 2013 to 2040, compared with 24 percent for renewables; 3 percent, nuclear; and 1 percent, coal.
Of the 83 GW of renewable capacity additions, 39 GW are solar photovoltaic (PV) systems (60 percent rooftop installations) and 28 GW are wind (60 percent occur by 2015 due to production tax credits), as federal tax incentives, state energy programs and rising fossil fuel prices increase the competitiveness of renewable- electricity technologies. Nuclear additions total about 10 GW. New coal plants total less than 3 GW, and more than 80 percent of that total is currently under construction, as federal and state environmental regulations and uncertainty about future limits on greenhouse gas emissions reduce the attractiveness of coal-fired plants.