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Last Updated: August 7, 2019
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Forecast HighlightsGlobal liquid fuels

  • Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $64 per barrel (b) in July, almost unchanged from the average in June 2019 but $10/b lower than the price in July of last year. EIA forecasts Brent spot prices will average $64/b in the second half of 2019 and $65/b in 2020. The forecast of stable crude oil prices is the result of EIA’s expectations of a relatively balanced global oil market. EIA forecasts global oil inventories will increase by 0.1 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2019 and 0.3 million b/d in 2020.
  • EIA expects West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices will average $5.50/b less than Brent prices during the fourth quarter of 2019 and in 2020, narrowing from the $6.60/b spread during July. The narrowing spread reflects EIA’s assumption that crude oil pipeline transportation constraints from the Permian Basin to refineries and export terminals on the U.S. Gulf Coast will ease in the coming months. In the July STEO, EIA forecast the Brent-WTI spread to average $4.00/b in 2020. The updated differential forecast reflects EIA’s revised assumptions about the marginal cost of moving crude oil via pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf Coast.
  • EIA estimates that U.S. crude oil production averaged 11.7 million b/d in July, down by 0.3 million b/d from the June level. The declines were mostly in the Federal Gulf of Mexico (GOM), where operators shut platforms for several days in mid-July because of Hurricane Barry. EIA estimates that GOM crude oil production fell by more than 0.3 million b/d in July. Those declines were partially offset by the Lower 48 States onshore region, which is mostly tight oil production, where supply rose by more than 0.1 million b/d. EIA expects monthly growth in Lower 48 onshore production to slow during the rest of the forecast period, averaging 50,000 b/d per month from the fourth quarter of 2019 through the end of 2020, down from an average of 110,000 b/d per month from August 2018 through July 2019. EIA forecasts U.S. crude oil production will average 12.3 million b/d in 2019 and 13.3 million b/d in 2020, both of which would be record levels.
  • U.S. regular gasoline retail prices averaged $2.74 gallon (gal) in July, up 2 cents/gal from June but 11 cents/gal lower than the average in July of last year. EIA expects that monthly average gasoline prices peaked for the year in May at an average of $2.86/gal and will fall to an average of $2.64/gal in September. EIA expects regular gasoline retail prices to average $2.62/gal in 2019 and $2.71/gal in 2020.

Natural gas

  • The Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $2.37/million British thermal units (MMBtu) in July, down 3 cents/MMBtu from June. However, by the end of the month, spot prices had fallen below $2.30/MMBtu. Based on this price movement and EIA’s forecast of continued strong growth in natural gas production, EIA lowered its Henry Hub spot price forecast for the second half of 2019 to an average of $2.36/MMBtu. In the July STEO, EIA expected prices to average $2.50/MMBtu during this period. EIA expects natural gas prices in 2020 will increase to an average of $2.75/MMBtu. EIA’s natural gas production models indicate that rising prices are required in the coming quarters to bring supply into balance with rising domestic and export demand in 2020.
  • EIA forecasts that U.S. dry natural gas production will average 91.0 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2019, up 7.6 Bcf/d from 2018. EIA expects monthly average natural gas production to grow in late 2019 and then decline slightly during the first quarter of 2020 as the lagged effect of low prices in the second half of 2019 reduces natural gas-directed drilling. However, EIA forecasts that growth will resume in the second quarter of 2020, and natural gas production in 2020 will average 92.5 Bcf/d.
  • EIA estimates that natural gas inventories ended July at 2.7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), 13% higher than levels from a year earlier and 4% lower than the five-year (2014–18) average. EIA forecasts that natural gas storage injections during the 2019 April-through-October injection season will outpace the previous five-year average and that inventories will rise to more than 3.7 Tcf at the end of October, which would be 16% higher than October 2018 levels and slightly above to the five-year average.

Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions

  • EIA has expanded its forecasts for electricity supply in the United States and has introduced new forecasts for wholesale electricity prices. A STEO Supplement provides more information about the changes.
  • Lower costs for natural gas drive EIA’s forecast that annual average wholesale electricity prices will be lower in 2019 than last year in all areas of the United States. The forecast year-over-year declines range from -0.2% in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) to -28% in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) market.
  • EIA expects the share of U.S. total utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas-fired power plants will rise from 34% in 2018 to 37% in 2019 and then decline slightly in 2020. EIA forecasts that the share of U.S. generation from coal will average 24% in 2019 and in 2020, down from 28% in 2018. The forecast nuclear share of U.S. generation remains at about 20% in 2019 and in 2020. Hydropower averages a 7% share of total U.S. generation in the forecast for 2019 and 2020, similar to 2018. Wind, solar, and other nonhydropower renewables together provided 10% of U.S. total utility-scale generation in 2018. EIA expects they will provide 10% in 2019 and 12% in 2020.
  • EIA expects electric power sector demand for coal to fall by 2% in 2020, compared with an expected decline of 15% in 2019. However, planned coal plant retirements will continue to put downward pressure on overall electricity demand for the fuel. Almost 13 gigawatts of coal-fired electricity generation capacity has retired this year or is scheduled to retire by the end of 2020, accounting for 5% of the capacity existing at the end of 2018.
  • EIA forecasts that renewable fuels, including wind, solar, and hydropower, will collectively produce 18% of U.S. electricity in 2019 and 19% in 2020. EIA expects that annual generation from wind will surpass hydropower generation for the first time in 2019 to become the leading source of renewable electricity generation and maintain that position in 2020.
  • EIA is improving its regional-level trend analysis by inserting a generator-level production cost model that simulates hourly generation at individual power plants. This improves our insight into generation, especially from fast-growing renewable sources like wind and solar.
  • This additional granularity and the assumption that wind will return to more normal levels in 2019, after a windy first half of 2018, results in an EIA forecast that electricity generation from wind power will average 295 billion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2019 and 335 billion kWh in 2020, estimates that are 4% and 7% lower, respectively, than forecast in the July STEO. In addition, the application of hourly dispatch that better models solar incidence lowers the solar electric production forecast by 1.1% in 2019 and by 2.8% in 2020.
  • EIA forecasts that, after rising by 2.7% in 2018, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will decline by 2.3% in 2019 and by 0.5% in 2020. In 2019, EIA forecasts that space cooling demand (as measured in cooling degree days) will be lower than in 2018, when it was 13% higher than the previous 10-year (2008–17) average. In addition, in 2019, EIA expects U.S. CO2 emissions to decline because the forecast share of electricity generated from natural gas and renewables is increasing while the forecast share generated from coal, which is a more carbon-intensive energy source, is decreasing. EIA’s projected emissions decline is lower in 2020 than in 2019 because it forecasts that both heating and cooling requirements will be slightly lower than normal. At the same time, the forecast coal share of generation will remain about the same as in 2019 while the natural gas share declines. Although EIA forecasts that generation from renewables will continue to increase in 2020, a forecast decrease in nuclear power offsets 24% of the renewables’ gain.

Changes to the August STEO

Beginning with the August 6, 2019, publication of the STEO, EIA has expanded its forecasts for regional electricity supply in the United States and has introduced new forecasts for wholesale electricity prices. 

To better present the expanded forecast, EIA will no longer publish table 7e, and the data in tables 7a, 7b, 7d, and 8b will now be stated in billion kilowatthours.

EIA has posted a STEO Supplement that provides more information about the new electricity supply and wholesale price forecasts.

Price Summary
 2017201820192020
aWest Texas Intermediate.
bAverage regular pump price.
cOn-highway retail.
dU.S. Residential average.
WTI Crude Oila
(dollars per barrel)
50.7965.0657.8759.50
Brent Crude Oil
(dollars per barrel)
54.1571.1965.1565.00
Gasolineb
(dollars per gallon)
2.422.732.622.71
Dieselc
(dollars per gallon)
2.653.183.073.22
Heating Oild
(dollars per gallon)
2.513.012.993.07
Natural Gasd
(dollars per thousand cubic feet)
10.8610.4910.4910.61
Electricityd
(cents per kilowatthour)
12.8912.8913.0513.17

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The United States consumed a record amount of renewable energy in 2019

In 2019, consumption of renewable energy in the United States grew for the fourth year in a row, reaching a record 11.5 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), or 11% of total U.S. energy consumption. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) new U.S. renewable energy consumption by source and sector chart published in the Monthly Energy Review shows how much renewable energy by source is consumed in each sector.

In its Monthly Energy Review, EIA converts sources of energy to common units of heat, called British thermal units (Btu), to compare different types of energy that are more commonly measured in units that are not directly comparable, such as gallons of biofuels compared with kilowatthours of wind energy. EIA uses a fossil fuel equivalence to calculate primary energy consumption of noncombustible renewables such as wind, hydro, solar, and geothermal.

U.S. renewable energy consumption by sector

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review

Wind energy in the United States is almost exclusively used by wind-powered turbines to generate electricity in the electric power sector, and it accounted for about 24% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. Wind surpassed hydroelectricity to become the most-consumed source of renewable energy on an annual basis in 2019.

Wood and waste energy, including wood, wood pellets, and biomass waste from landfills, accounted for about 24% of U.S. renewable energy use in 2019. Industrial, commercial, and electric power facilities use wood and waste as fuel to generate electricity, to produce heat, and to manufacture goods. About 2% of U.S. households used wood as their primary source of heat in 2019.

Hydroelectric power is almost exclusively used by water-powered turbines to generate electricity in the electric power sector and accounted for about 22% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. U.S. hydropower consumption has remained relatively consistent since the 1960s, but it fluctuates with seasonal rainfall and drought conditions.

Biofuels, including fuel ethanol, biodiesel, and other renewable fuels, accounted for about 20% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019. Biofuels usually are blended with petroleum-based motor gasoline and diesel and are consumed as liquid fuels in automobiles. Industrial consumption of biofuels accounts for about 36% of U.S. biofuel energy consumption.

Solar energy, consumed to generate electricity or directly as heat, accounted for about 9% of U.S. renewable energy consumption in 2019 and had the largest percentage growth among renewable sources in 2019. Solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, including rooftop panels, and solar thermal power plants use sunlight to generate electricity. Some residential and commercial buildings heat with solar heating systems.

October, 20 2020
Natural gas generators make up largest share of U.S. electricity generation capacity

operating natural-gas fired electric generating capacity by online year

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration's (EIA) annual survey of electric generators, natural gas-fired generators accounted for 43% of operating U.S. electricity generating capacity in 2019. These natural gas-fired generators provided 39% of electricity generation in 2019, more than any other source. Most of the natural gas-fired capacity added in recent decades uses combined-cycle technology, which surpassed coal-fired generators in 2018 to become the technology with the most electricity generating capacity in the United States.

Technological improvements have led to improved efficiency of natural gas generators since the mid-1980s, when combined-cycle plants began replacing older, less efficient steam turbines. For steam turbines, boilers combust fuel to generate steam that drives a turbine to generate electricity. Combustion turbines use a fuel-air mixture to spin a gas turbine. Combined-cycle units, as their name implies, combine these technologies: a fuel-air mixture spins gas turbines to generate electricity, and the excess heat from the gas turbine is used to generate steam for a steam turbine that generates additional electricity.

Combined-cycle generators generally operate for extended periods; combustion turbines and steam turbines are typically only used at times of peak load. Relatively few steam turbines have been installed since the late 1970s, and many steam turbines have been retired in recent years.

natural gas-fired electric gnerating capacity by retirement year

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Not only are combined-cycle systems more efficient than steam or combustion turbines alone, the combined-cycle systems installed more recently are more efficient than the combined-cycle units installed more than a decade ago. These changes in efficiency have reduced the amount of natural gas needed to produce the same amount of electricity. Combined-cycle generators consume 80% of the natural gas used to generate electric power but provide 85% of total natural gas-fired electricity.

operating natural gas-fired electric generating capacity in selected states

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Inventory

Every U.S. state, except Vermont and Hawaii, has at least one utility-scale natural gas electric power plant. Texas, Florida, and California—the three states with the most electricity consumption in 2019—each have more than 35 gigawatts of natural gas-fired capacity. In many states, the majority of this capacity is combined-cycle technology, but 44% of New York’s natural gas capacity is steam turbines and 67% of Illinois’s natural gas capacity is combustion turbines.

October, 19 2020
EIA’s International Energy Outlook analyzes electricity markets in India, Africa, and Asia

Countries that are not members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Asia, including China and India, and in Africa are home to more than two-thirds of the world population. These regions accounted for 44% of primary energy consumed by the electric sector in 2019, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected they will reach 56% by 2050 in the Reference case in the International Energy Outlook 2019 (IEO2019). Changes in these economies significantly affect global energy markets.

Today, EIA is releasing its International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020), which analyzes generating technology, fuel price, and infrastructure uncertainty in the electricity markets of Africa, Asia, and India. A related webcast presentation will begin this morning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

global energy consumption for power generation

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020)

IEO2020 focuses on the electricity sector, which consumes a growing share of the world’s primary energy. The makeup of the electricity sector is changing rapidly. The use of cost-efficient wind and solar technologies is increasing, and, in many regions of the world, use of lower-cost liquefied natural gas is also increasing. In IEO2019, EIA projected renewables to rise from about 20% of total energy consumed for electricity generation in 2010 to the largest single energy source by 2050.

The following are some key findings of IEO2020:

  • As energy use grows in Asia, some cases indicate more than 50% of electricity could be generated from renewables by 2050.
    IEO2020 features cases that consider differing natural gas prices and renewable energy capital costs in Asia, showing how these costs could shift the fuel mix for generating electricity in the region either further toward fossil fuels or toward renewables.
  • Africa could meet its electricity growth needs in different ways depending on whether development comes as an expansion of the central grid or as off-grid systems.
    Falling costs for solar photovoltaic installations and increased use of off-grid distribution systems have opened up technology options for the development of electricity infrastructure in Africa. Africa’s power generation mix could shift away from current coal-fired and natural gas-fired technologies used in the existing central grid toward off-grid resources, including extensive use of non-hydroelectric renewable generation sources.
  • Transmission infrastructure affects options available to change the future fuel mix for electricity generation in India.
    IEO2020 cases demonstrate the ways that electricity grid interconnections influence fuel choices for electricity generation in India. In cases where India relies more on a unified grid that can transmit electricity across regions, the share of renewables significantly increases and the share of coal decreases between 2019 and 2050. More limited movement of electricity favors existing in-region generation, which is mostly fossil fuels.

IEO2020 builds on the Reference case presented in IEO2019. The models, economic assumptions, and input oil prices from the IEO2019 Reference case largely remained unchanged, but EIA adjusted specific elements or assumptions to explore areas of uncertainty such as the rapid growth of renewable energy.

Because IEO2020 is based on the IEO2019 modeling platform and because it focuses on long-term electricity market dynamics, it does not include the impacts of COVID-19 and related mitigation efforts. The Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021) and IEO2021 will both feature analyses of the impact of COVID-19 mitigation efforts on energy markets.

Asia infographic, as described in the article text


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2020 (IEO2020)
Note: Click to enlarge.

With the IEO2020 release, EIA is publishing new Plain Language documentation of EIA’s World Energy Projection System (WEPS), the modeling system that EIA uses to produce IEO projections. EIA’s new Handbook of Energy Modeling Methods includes sections on most WEPS components, and EIA will release more sections in the coming months.

October, 16 2020