Listed below are all documents and RMI.org site pages related to this topic.
By 2050, the U.S. can phase out its use of oil, coal and nuclear energy by relying on energy efficiency to reduce its energy needs, and meeting remaining the energy requirements with renewables and natural gas.
The U.S. burns 13 million barrels of oil a day for transportation. Most of this oil powers cars and light trucks. By 2050, the U.S. is expected to burn upwards of 17 million barrels of oil a day for transportation alone.
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.
Humans have consumed roughly one-third of the planet’s technically and economically recoverable stock of fossil fuels. Projections from resource experts, although quite approximate, suggest that we are approaching peak consumption for oil (some assert the peak has already passed) and perhaps even for coal.
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%).
In Reinventing Fire
, natural gas consumption in 2050 is reduced by 36% relative to business-as-usual. This reduction is primarily enabled by improved efficiency in commercial and residential buildings and less reliance on natural gas in the electricity sector.
Industry has a huge variety of subsectors that differ markedly in energy consumption and intensity (energy used per $ of shipment).
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.
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.
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%.