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Renewable Energy Will Double by 2035, Supplying 16% of US Energy

Renewable energy production will more than double by 2035 even without federal tax credits, says the Energy Information Agency (EIA) in its “Annual Energy Outlook 2012.”

To develop its projections, EIA bases assumptions on the laws, reguations and trends in place today. Based on economic recovery and increasing energy efficiency, it expects energy demand in transportation to grow 0.2% a year between 2010- 2035, and electricity demand to grow 0.8% a year. Energy consumption per capita will decline 0.5% a year.

The energy intensity of the U.S. economy, measured as energy use per dollar of gross domestic product, declines 42% from 2010 – 2035.

These projections don’t include the bump in efficiency from from fuel economy leaps in cars and trucks that come into effect during the period.

EIA expects the share of U.S. electricity generation from renewables (including hydro) will grow from 10% in 2010 to 16% in 2035.

Coal use will fall to 39%, down from 49% in 2007 because of slow growth in electricity demand, competition from natural gas and renewables, and the need to comply with new environmental regulations.

The US will become a net exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2016, and a net exporter of natural gas in 2021.

Energy-related carbon emissions continue grow 3%, which is over 7% below 2005 levels – nowhere near the 17% drop President Obama has called for.

Geothermal, which has great potential but has been lagging other renewables, gets attention in this report. EIA expects geothermal supply 6% of US renewable energy by 2035 – the third largest non-hydro source after wind and biomass.

EIA expects utility-scale geothermal to triple in production by 2035, growing from the currrent 2.6 gigawatts (GW) of capacity to 6.41 GW in 2035. That accounts only for utility-scale systems; EIA doesn’t figure in distributed geotherman for homes and businesses, another big growth area.

Engineering News-Record reports:

One of the barriers holding geothermal back in California is the lack of transmission infrastructure – several projects are waiting to be connected to the grid. State officials are streamlining development of transmission lines to connect geothermal projects and help the state to reach renewable energy targets.

Much of California’s geothermal resources are in the Imperial Valley, where there are 500 development proposals. The California Independent System Operator has identified 27 projects that would add almost 5.8 GW to the grid.

In 2010, California’s 25 geothermal plants produced 4.2% of the state’s energy – double that of wind – and 17 more plants are being developed. Calfornia is prioritizing geothermal in much of the southern part of the state to avoid covering the desert with solar and wind.

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