The modern world is a power-hungry world. With the digital age, our reliance on energy has become ever-more important. Below, we’ll look at how the current energy system is coping with enhanced demands, as well as what the future may hold.
Natural gas-fired power plants
- The total electricity generated in 2017 from natural gas-fired power plants was 32%.
- This is expected to rise to 34% in 2018.
- It is expected the number will continue to rise in 2019, to 35%.
- Natural gas has been the largest source of electricity generation in the US since 2015.
- The US is the world’s largest producer of natural gas.
- The electricity generation share from coal was 30% in 2017.
- In 2018, that number is expected to fall to 28% .
- This share is expected to fall further in 2019, to 27% .
- The lower generation of electrical share from coal is likely due to the increase in natural gas supply.
- Electricity generated from nuclear power was 20% in 2017.
- This number is expected to remain the same in 2018.
- By 2019, it is believed that nuclear power will account for 19% of the energy generated in the US – a fall of 1% .
- One of the reasons for this fall is the fact that a number of reactors are reaching the end of their lives. Five reactors have come offline since 2012, and plans for the construction of new plants have frequently been derailed.
- Nonhydropower renewable energy accounted for less than 10% of electricity generated in 2018.
- It is expected the number will rise above 10% in 2018.
- This rise is expected to continue, up to 11% by 2018.
- Hydropower was responsible for generating 7% of electricity in 2017.
- Forecasts suggest this number is likely to remain stable in 2018 and 2019.
- It is estimated that wind generation average 697,000 megawatt hours per day (MWh/d) in 2017.
- It is believed this will rise to 746,000 MWh/d in 2018.
- By 2019, it is thought wind will generate 782,000 MWh/d in 2019.
- This is a rise of 7% in 2018, and a further 5% in 2019
- In 2017, solar power generated 211,000 MWh/d in 2017.
- It is expected this number will rise to 260,000 MW/h/d in 2018.
- This is a rise of 23%; a far higher rate of growth than seen across other forms of electricity generation.
- It is further anticipation that wind generation will increase to 290,000 MW/h/d by 2019. This is a further 12% increase.
- However, even with substantial increases, solar power remains the least productive of the various forms of electricity generation.
How much power is the US using?
- In 2016, the average annual electricity consumption for a US utility customer was 10,766 kilowatt hours (kWh).
- Electricity consumption varies hugely between states. The highest consumption, 14,881 kWh per utility customer, is found in Louisiana.
- Hawaii is the state with the lowest electricity consumption with just 6,061 kWh being used per person.
What can be concluded from these figures?
Natural gas is leading the way
The US is already demonstrating a propensity for electrical generation using natural gas, and this looks set to continue. Natural gas production in 2017 was the second-largest ever produced, after a peak in 2015. This trend looks set to continue.
Natural gas production methods are improving
Natural gas has been the subject of numerous technological innovations, and now utilizes cost-effective drilling techniques.
The future for coal is questionable
In 2017, coal production in the US was equivalent to the level of production in 1979. However, this is not expected to last, with reliance on coal production declining due to the preferable affordability and abundance of natural gas.
Renewable energy continues to perform well, but not outstandingly well
Wind and solar production reached record highs in 2017, and the general trend is positive. However, these production methods still lag behind conventional forms of energy.
The future of nuclear power is dubious
With many reactors reaching the end of their life cycles, and new constructions beleaguered by setbacks, the future of nuclear power is uncertain. While production will continue in the short-term, the industry has been further set back by the fact that a majority of US residents oppose nuclear energy – – 54% against versus 44% in favor. This is the first time opposition to nuclear energy has been in the majority.
The short-term energy outlook is predominantly positive, though concerns may linger for those looking further afield. Improvements in natural gas are the headline story, and show continued promise for development and production in the future.
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