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Last Updated: June 10, 2020
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Forecast Highlights

Global liquid fuels

  • Although revisions to EIA’s forecasts in the June STEO are generally smaller than they have been in recent months, this forecast remains subject to heightened levels of uncertainty because mitigation and reopening efforts related to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continue to evolve. Reduced economic activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes in energy supply and demand patterns in 2020, particularly for petroleum and other liquid fuels. Uncertainties persist across EIA’s outlook for other energy sources, including natural gas, electricity, coal, and renewables.
  • Daily Brent crude oil spot prices averaged $29 per barrel (b) in May, up $11/b from the average in April. Oil prices rose in May as initial data show global oil demand was higher than EIA had forecast and as adherence to announced production cuts by Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and partner countries (OPEC+) was high. EIA expects monthly Brent prices will average $37/b during the second half of 2020 and rise to an average of $48/b in 2021. The forecast of rising crude oil prices reflects expected declines in global oil inventories during the second half of 2020 and through 2021. EIA expects high inventory levels and spare crude oil production capacity will limit upward price pressures in the coming months, but as inventories decline into 2021, those upward price pressures will increase.
  • EIA forecasts that demand for global petroleum and liquid fuels will average 83.8 million barrels per day (b/d) in the second quarter of 2020, 16.6 million b/d lower than at the same time last year. Lower demand is the result of COVID-19-related shutdowns throughout much of the world. As stay-at-home orders are eased, EIA expects liquid fuels consumption will rise to an average of 94.9 million b/d in the third quarter (down 6.7 million b/d year over year). EIA forecasts that consumption of petroleum and liquid fuels globally will average 92.5 million b/d for all of 2020, down 8.3 million b/d from 2019, before increasing by 7.2 million b/d in 2021.
  • EIA expects the supply of liquid fuels globally will average 92.6 million b/d in the second quarter of 2020, down 7.9 million b/d year over year. The declines reflect voluntary supply cuts by OPEC+ and reductions in drilling activity in the United States because of low oil prices. Supply of oil fell by less than demand in the second quarter, and EIA expects supply to be slower to increase. In the forecast, the global supply of oil declines to 92.0 million b/d in the third quarter before rising to an annual average of 97.4 million b/d in 2021. EIA expects OPEC to drive supply growth in 2021.
  • EIA expects that global liquid fuels inventories will grow by an average of 2.2 million b/d in 2020. EIA estimates inventories rose from January through May at an average rate of 9.4 million b/d. The builds, which peaked during April, were the result of a sharp decline in global oil demand because of widespread travel limitations and reduced economic activity. EIA estimates that global oil inventories at the end of May stood 1.4 billion barrels higher than they were at the end of 2019. However, EIA now expects global oil inventories will begin declining in June, a month earlier than previously forecast, with draws continuing through the end of 2021. The sooner-than-expected draws are the result of sharper declines in global oil production during June and higher global oil demand than previously expected. EIA expects global liquid fuels inventories will fall at an average rate of 2.5 million b/d from June 2020 through the end of 2021.
  • EIA forecasts U.S. liquid fuels consumption will average 15.7 million b/d in the second quarter of 2020, down 4.6 million b/d (23%) from the same period in 2019. The decline reflects travel restrictions and reduced economic activity related to COVID-19 mitigation efforts. EIA expects the largest declines in U.S. oil consumption have already occurred and demand will generally rise during the next 18 months. EIA forecasts U.S. liquid fuels consumption will average 18.4 million b/d in the third quarter of 2020 (down 2.3 million b/d year-over-year) before rising to an average of 19.5 million b/d in 2021. Although that level would be 1.4 million b/d more than EIA’s forecast 2020 consumption, it would be 1.0 million b/d less than the 2019 average.
  • Declines in U.S. liquid fuels consumption vary across products. EIA expects jet fuel consumption to fall by 64% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020, while gasoline consumption falls by 26% and distillate consumption falls by 17%. EIA forecasts the consumption of all three fuels to rise in the third quarter and into 2021 but to remain lower than 2019 levels.
  • EIA estimates U.S. crude oil production fell from a record 12.9 million b/d in November 2019 to 11.4 million b/d in May 2020 as Baker Hughes reported the fewest active drilling wells in the United States in their records which go back to 1987. EIA expects U.S. crude oil production will continue to decline, to 10.6 million b/d in March 2021, then increase slightly through the end of 2021. EIA forecasts that U.S. crude oil production will average 11.6 million b/d in 2020, down 0.7 million b/d from 2019. In 2021, EIA expects U.S. crude oil production will average 10.8 million b/d. This 2020 production decline would mark the first annual decline since 2016. Typically, price changes affect production after about a six-month lag. However, current market conditions have shortened this lag as many producers have already curtailed production and reduced capital spending and drilling in response to lower prices.

Natural gas

  • In May, the Henry Hub natural gas spot price averaged $1.75 per million British thermal units (MMBtu). EIA forecasts that relatively low natural gas demand will keep spot prices lower than $2/MMBtu through August. However, EIA expects prices will generally rise through the end of 2021. EIA expects that natural gas price increases will be sharpest this fall and winter when they rise from an average of $2.06/MMBtu in September to $3.08/MMBtu in January. Despite EIA’s forecast of record end-of-October storage levels, EIA expects that rising demand heading into winter, combined with reduced production, will cause upward price pressures. EIA forecasts that Henry Hub natural gas spot prices will average $2.04/MMBtu in 2020 and $3.08/MMBtu in 2021.
  • EIA expects that total U.S. consumption of natural gas will average 81.9 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in 2020, down 3.6% from 2019. The decline primarily reflects less consumption in the industrial-sector, which EIA forecasts will average 21.0 Bcf/d in 2020, down 8.7% from 2019 as a result of reduced manufacturing activity.
  • U.S. dry natural gas production set a record in 2019, averaging 92.2 Bcf/d. EIA forecasts dry natural gas production will average 89.7 Bcf/d in 2020, with monthly production falling from 96.2 Bcf/d in November 2019 to 83.6 Bcf/d in March 2021, before increasing slightly. Natural gas production declines the most in the Appalachian and Permian regions. In the Appalachian region, low natural gas prices are discouraging producers from engaging in natural gas-directed drilling, and in the Permian region, low crude oil prices reduce associated natural gas output from oil-directed wells. In 2021, EIA’s forecast production of dry natural gas in the United States averages 85.4 Bcf/d. EIA expects production to begin rising in the second quarter of 2021 in response to higher prices.
  • EIA estimates that total U.S. working natural gas in storage ended May at almost 2.8 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), 18% more than the five-year (2015–19) average. In the forecast, inventories rise by 2.1 Tcf during the April-through-October injection season to reach more than 4.1 Tcf on October 31, which would be a record.
  • EIA forecasts that U.S. liquefied natural gas exports will average 5.6 Bcf/d in the second quarter of 2020 and 3.7 Bcf/d in the third quarter of 2020. EIA expects that U.S. liquefied natural gas exports will decline through the end of the summer as a result of reduced global demand for natural gas.

Electricity, coal, renewables, and emissions

  • EIA forecasts 5.7% less electricity consumption in the United States in 2020, compared with 2019. The largest decline by consumption sector on a percentage basis occurs in the commercial sector, where EIA expects retail sales of electricity to fall by 9.1% this year. Forecast industrial retail electricity sales fall by 6.7%. EIA forecasts residential sector retail sales will decrease by 1.5% in 2020. Milder expected temperatures compared with 2019 reduce EIA’s forecast of electricity consumption for space heating and cooling, but that effect is partly offset by an assumed increase in electricity use by more people who are working from home. In 2021, EIA forecasts total U.S. electricity consumption will rise by 1.0%.
  • EIA expects the share of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas-fired power plants will increase from 37% in 2019 to 41% this year. In 2021, the forecast natural gas share declines to 36% in response to higher natural gas prices. Coal’s forecast share of electricity generation falls from 24% in 2019 to 17% in 2020 and then increases to 20% in 2021. Electricity generation from renewable energy sources rise from 17% in 2019 to 21% in 2020 and to 23% in 2021. The increase in the share from renewables is the result of expected additions to wind and solar generating capacity. Expected nuclear generation declines slightly in both 2020 and 2021, but its generation share rises from 20% in 2019 to an average of 22% in 2020 and 21% in 2021 because total U.S. generation falls by more than nuclear generation.
  • EIA forecasts that renewable energy will be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation in 2020. EIA expects the electric power sector will add 23.2 gigawatts of new wind capacity and 12.6 gigawatts of utility-scale solar capacity in 2020. However, these future capacity additions are subject to a high degree of uncertainty, and EIA continues to monitor reported planned capacity builds.
  • EIA expects coal production will decrease by 25% to 530 million short tons (MMst) in 2020. Metallurgical coal mines in Appalachia have slowed production based on reduced demand from global steel production and coking coal, and EIA forecasts production in that region will decline by 35% this year. EIA forecasts Western region production to decline by 25%, partly because of slowing demand for steam coal from key importers such as India and a decline in U.S. coal-fired generation in 2020. In 2021, EIA forecasts coal production will rise to 549 MMst because of forecast rising natural gas prices and rising demand for U.S. exports.
  • After decreasing by 2.8% in 2019, EIA forecasts that U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will decrease by 14% (714 million metric tons) in 2020. This record decline is the result of less energy consumption related to restrictions on business and travel activity and slowing economic growth related to COVID-19 mitigation efforts. CO2 emissions decline with reduced consumption of all fossil fuels, particularly coal (33%) and petroleum (13%). In 2021, EIA forecasts that energy-related CO2 emissions will increase by 5%, as the economy recovers and stay-at-home orders are lifted, for a net decrease in energy-related CO2 emissions of 9% for 2020 and 2021 combined. Energy-related CO2 emissions are sensitive to changes in weather, economic growth, energy prices, and fuel mix.

STEO EIA electricity coal renewables emissions oil gas natural gas liquid fuels
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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