Solar energy and other renewable technologies are set to play a major role in helping the US become a net energy exporter by 2030, according to a new report by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Its latest Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) predicts an end to net energy imports between 2020 and 2030 as a combination of slowing demand growth, increased renewables output and increased domestic fossil fuels development.
“EIA's AEO2015 shows that the advanced technologies are reshaping the US energy economy," said EIA administrator Adam Sieminski.
"With continued growth in oil and natural gas production, growth in the use of renewables, and the application of demand-side efficiencies, the projections show the potential to eliminate net US energy imports in the 2020 to 2030 timeframe. The United States has been a net importer of energy since the 1950s. In cases with the highest supply and lowest demand outlooks, the United States becomes a significant net exporter of energy," said Sieminski.
As a result, the majority of scenarios modelled by the EIA show the country becoming a net energy exporter before 2030 with better cases putting the date closer to 2020 and the worst case suggesting that imports will plateau at similar levels to today.
The report found that solar is the fastest growing source of renewable energy with an annual growth rate of 6.8%. The report predicts that 77GW of renewable generation capacity will be added up until 2040 with 44% of that (33.9GW) from solar. Of this 31GW will be solar PV. Only 9GW of nuclear and 1GW of coal capacity is expected to be added in the same period.
The increasing use of gas and renewable energy’s increasing share of electricity generation means the CO2 intensity of the US economy is expected to fall 2.3% a year from 2013 to 2040, according to the EIA. All scenarios modelled by the EIA put 2040 emissions below those of 2005.
Last week, Bloomberg New Energy Finance published a report predicting 2015 would be a "watershed" year for decarbonisation of the US power sector thanks to combination of increased solar and wind deployment and the shuttering of multiple coal-fired power plants.