January 24, 2019

National Report Shows Natural Gas Overreliance Keeps US Power Sector Emissions High Through 2050

Statement by Steve Clemmer, Director of Energy Research & Analysis, Union of Concerned Scientists

National Report Shows Natural Gas Overreliance Keeps US Power Sector Emissions High Through 2050

Statement by Steve Clemmer, Director of Energy Research & Analysis, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON (January 24, 2018)—Today, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its Annual Energy Outlook 2019 report. An independent arm of the U.S. Department of Energy, EIA develops the annual report to help the nation gauge the future of U.S. energy production, demand, prices, and emissions through 2050.

EIA forecasts that renewable energy and natural gas will be the primary sources of new electricity generation from 2020 through mid-century, and projects that renewables will surpass nuclear by 2020 and coal by 2025 to become the second leading source of U.S. electricity generation after natural gas. But much more investment in renewable energy and other low-carbon technologies will be necessary to limit the impacts of climate change, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Below is a statement by Steve Clemmer, director of energy research and analysis at UCS.

“The report makes it very clear that the nation’s energy system continues to undergo an incredible transformation—where renewables are going to be a leading source of energy over the long term. But when you read the report you realize that absent swift and aggressive policy action, we are far from achieving the carbon reductions needed to curtail climate change.

“The report shows after having declined for the last several years, the U.S. power sector’s carbon dioxide emissions will level out after 2022 due to an increased reliance on natural gas and the phasing out of federal tax credits for renewables.

“EIA predicts that nuclear plants will continue to struggle economically primarily because of cheap natural gas. Replacing nuclear plants with natural gas also contributes to higher emissions as seen in EIA’s forecast. As a recent UCS analysis found, keeping safely operating nuclear plants running until they can be replaced with energy efficiency, renewables, and other low carbon technologies would help prevent this outcome.

“Notably, in my 20-plus years of looking at the EIA’s annual report, this is the first time I’ve seen the national report not include projections for total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. From a climate perspective, it’s critical to know how many tons are being released and how much we need to reduce emissions over time. While this data is available online, it begs the question of why the EIA left this essential information out.

“The big take away from this report is that business can’t continue as usual because EIA modeled that scenario and it shows the market won’t rapidly decarbonize the power sector, but strong climate and energy policies will. We need strong policies such as a national price on carbon or a low-carbon electricity standard to phase out fossil fuels more quickly and to do our part to address the global climate crisis.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.