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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.


Primary energy consumption in U.S. industry

Energy use for U.S. industry is conventionally projected to grow from 24.4 quads in 2010 to 30.5 quads in 2050.

In 2010, more than four-fifths of energy use in U.S. industry came from fossil fuels. Natural gas is the dominant source of energy (~35%).


Estimated water withdrawals in the U.S., 1950–2005

In 2005, half of U.S. water withdrawals were made by the electricity sector. A “business-as-usual” U.S. electricity future will increase reliance on large thermal power plants and keep water demands high.


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.


Historic and projected U.S. electricity demand, 1950-2050

While U.S. demand for electricity has risen in all but four years since 1949, the rate of increase has been steadily trending down. The Energy Information Administration predicts an annual growth rate around +1% to 2030 (which RMI extrapolates to 2050). Successfully implementing the energy efficiency improvements in buildings and industry discussed in Reinventing Fire could reduce this to a steady –1%.


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.


2050 installed capacity by case

The required generating capacity and its breakdown are very different in each of Rocky Mountain Institute’s four scenarios for the future U.S. electricity system (detailed here).


2050 generation by case

Each of Rocky Mountain Institute’s four scenarios for the future U.S. electricity system (detailed here) will have a very different electricity generation mix.


Electric sector job quantity impact

In Reinventing Fire, the shift toward renewable power generation creates new jobs; however, these additions may be negated, as the sector is required to raise electricity rates.


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