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U.S. installed capacity and electricity generation by energy resource, 1949 to 2009

The U.S. electricity sector has seen tremendous growth in the past 60 years. From 1949 to 2009, U.S. electricity consumption increased by a factor of 13. To meet this rising demand, the U.S has built vast amounts of new electricity generating infrastructure. The total U.S. installed capacity in 2009 was 998 GW, compared with just 65 GW in 1949.


Electricity scenarios

In Reinventing Fire, Rocky Mountain Institute investigates the implications of four radically different future electricity scenarios - from a “business-as-usual” case to a network of intelligent microgrids powered largely by distributed renewables.


Biofeedstock supply curve

The 16 quadrillion BTU of biomass used in 2050 in Reinventing Fire is supplied by agricultural residue, mill residue, dedicated energy crops, municipal solid waste and forestry residue. No cropland or edible feedstock is required.


Cumulative new transmission requirements in four scenarios

Rocky Mountain Institute’s four scenarios for the future U.S. electricity system ( detailed here ) all have very different requirements for an expanded transmission infrastructure.


Technology capital cost projections, 2010-2050

In evaluating the future U.S. electricity system, Rocky Mountain Institute created capital cost projections for fossil and renewable generation technologies through 2050. Many newer technologies, such as concentrated solar power, solar photovoltaics, and battery storage, are projected to have rapidly declining capital costs in the next 40 years.


U.S. buildings' energy-saving potential, 2010–2050

With significant investments in efficient technologies and smart controls—probably requiring a transformation of the real-estate industry—the U.S. can achieve building energy savings of 38%. With the widespread adoption of integrative design, those savings could potentially rise to 69%. Both figures assume a 70% increase in floorspace by 2050.


Energy inefficiency in a conventional data center

Starting the savings downstream at a typical data center can achieve leverage of 10- or even 100-fold in saved fuel back at the power plant.


Solar thermal competitiveness with 2009 U.S. industrial natural gas prices

Solar thermal heating can deliver some of the process heating requirements for industry.

Given the high volatility of natural gas prices, pricing for solar thermal projects on a lifecycle cost of heat basis can be competitive with natural gas.


U.S. renewable energy potential

Considering budding technologies that could be commercially available in the future, the potential U.S. generation capacity from renewables is overwhelming. Wave and tidal generators, offshore deep-water wind farms, and enhanced geothermal power (which uses the Earth's heat but doesn’t require a natural steam source) are all in development and represent a huge potential energy resource.


Traffic fatalities, vehicle weight changes, and vehicle size, based on 1999 U.S. fleet on the road

Crash-safety risk with lightweight materials in automotive applications is only perceived, not supported by evidence. Lighter autos are actually safer than heavier ones the same size.


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