Future Of Energy In The United States (Energy Outlook)

Future Of Energy In The United States (Energy Outlook)

This is a short guide outlining what the different forecasts and estimates say the future of the United States’ energy mix might look like (what energy sources provide energy and electricity).


Summary – Future Energy Outlook In The US

  • At present, the US gets most of it’s energy from fossil fuels, and most of it’s electricity from natural gas and coal
  • Some outlooks indicate that US electricity generation could be 39% natural gas and 31% renewables in 2050
  • Some outlooks indicate fossil fuels will supply 80% of future energy needs in 2050 for the US
  • Some sources indicate coal energy will decrease, and wind and solar power will grow more than what is reported in the EIA Outlook forecast
  • One study indicates that, based on current technology, renewables could feasibly provide up to 80% of energy needs in the future – but, they admit there needs to be changes to major factors like transmission infrastructure, power grid planning and energy policy (so, it’s more of a best case scenario for clean energy and not as much a prediction)
  • The energy mix of specific regions and states in the US can differ to country wide trends in energy mix (state and local governments can have some say in this)
  • There’s many factors that can ultimately impact the future energy mix of any country, such as macroeconomic growth and market forces, world oil prices, technological progress, and energy policies … just to name a few. Social, economic, environmental and logistical pros and cons of different energy sources also have to be weighed up
  • In reality, we can look at past energy data, and current trends of energy production and consumption. We can then use modeled projections to predict what might happen with energy in the future based on different assumptions and methodologies
  • But, energy forecasts are not definitive – they are more of an educated estimate/prediction

A few more notes are:

  • % of a type of energy source is different to total numbers. For example, % share of renewables might go up in 30 years, but emissions and air pollutants might not actually reduce if the same amount of fossil fuel in total are still being used (a growing population can have something to do with this for example)
  • When looking at renewables as an energy source, different types of renewables can make up different % shares e.g. solar or hydroelectric might make up more than wind for example
  • Fossil fuels, nuclear and other types of energy sources in the future might start specialising or diverging into sub-types e.g. clean coal technology vs regular coal
  • Electrification of cars (moving away from oil based fuel) and other vehicles could have a significant impact on the overall energy and electricity mix of a country


Forecasts & Predictions Of Energy Sources In The United States In The Future

  • Natural gas prices in the future are predicted to be very low
  • By 2050, the electricity generation mix [could be] 39% natural gas, 31% renewables, 12% nuclear and 17% coal
  • Renewables specifically [could be] 48% solar PV, 25% wind, 18% hydroelectric, 4% geothermal and 5% other

– eia.gov


  • Renewables and natural gas will be the primary sources of new energy generation from 2050
  • Renewables will remain behind natural gas in terms of energy produced
  • Renewables will surpass nuclear by 2020 and coal by 2025
  • Driven by growth in wind and solar generation, the renewable energy industry will increase from 18% in 2018 to 31% in 2050

– smart-energy.com


  • Some sources indicate that by 2050, fossil fuels (crude oil, coal, and natural gas) will continue supplying about 80% of America’s energy for the next 32 years through 2050 [partly because they are low-cost, dependable and reliable energy]
  • Assumptions about macroeconomic growth, world oil prices, technological progress, and energy policies [can impact future energy mix]
  • Nuclear’s share of total energy will gradually fall from 8.4% this year to slightly above 6% in 2050, while all renewables together (conventional hydroelectric, geothermal, wood and wood waste, biogenic municipal waste, other biomass, wind, photovoltaic, and solar thermal sources) will supply less than 15% of America’s energy a generation from now when today’s teenagers are middle-aged by mid-century

– aei.org


  • [some studies show that the] U.S. can generate most of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050
  • It is feasible with currently available technologies
  • In this scenario, the country can meet electricity demand across the country every hour of every day, year-round
  • Variable resources such as wind and solar power can provide up to about half of U.S. electricity, with the remaining 30 percent from other renewable sources
  • This scenario is technically feasible and affordable, but can only be achieved with the right policies and measures in place.
  • It needs better transmission infrastructure, and better grid planning to for better reliability
  • It needs a long-term market for renewable energy, that encourages and supports the integration of renewable energy, puts a price on carbon emissions, and increases funding for research and development

– ucsusa.org


  • Domestic Electricity generated by renewables has essentially doubled from 2001 to 2016 in the US
  • Yearly domestic electricity numbers vary from year to year with renewables when annual hydroelectric energy rises and drops
  • Hydro is the largest electricity producer in the US right now
  • Different renewables make up different amounts of the overall renewable energy mix in each country

– wikipedia.org


  • … the EIA creates its base case for the Annual Energy Outlook has been criticized for years, in part because the projections don’t take into account future changes to laws and regulations. The EIA even stresses in the report that its base case is not a forecast
  • … the problem with this is that the EIA’s projections are widely used by federal and state officials
  • … some regions of the Midwest are seeing a rapid growth in wind energy [which goes against what the EIA Outlook says]
  • [there are probably] overestimates of coal and natural gas in the EIA’s report
  • The idea of coal holding onto 17 percent of the market in 2050 makes little sense because almost no new coal plants are being built in the United States due to high costs, and the existing ones would be well beyond their useful lives by 2050
  • Instead, many electric utilities have announced plans to shut down their coal-fired power plants sooner than previously expected and to accelerate development of wind and solar power
  • …[it’s possible the] least profitable plants will close down and that some coal plants will remain competitive and keep operating
  • Even if there is a slowdown in new onshore wind farm construction, there is likely to be substantial growth in offshore wind.

– insideclimatenews.org


  • A prediction of US energy consumption in 2035 is Oil 32%, Natural Gas 26%, Coal 20%, Renewables 16%, and Nuclear 9%
  • Renewables are the biggest growth compared to 2012 numbers, increasing from 8% in 2012 to 16% in 2035

– e-education.psu.edu


Future Of Renewable Energy In The US

  • From the above data…
  • Some of the lowest estimates put renewable energy at an energy share of around 3-4% higher than today by 2050, from 12% to around 16%. This doesn’t take into account law and regulation change by the government that is pro renewables
  • But, some of the higher estimates put renewables at around 30-40% of energy share
  • Some studies indicate that most of the US’ electricity can be supplied by renewables by 2050 based on current technology, but this scenario depends on various factors to become reality

You can read more about renewables in the US in 2018, and some projections of the future at https://www.prescouter.com/2019/04/2018-was-a-record-year-for-renewable-energy-2019-could-be-the-same/



1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

2. https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/aeo/pdf/aeo2019.pdf

3. https://www.smart-energy.com/industry-sectors/distributed-generation/2019-us-energy-outlook-released/

4. http://www.aei.org/publication/chart-of-the-day-despite-all-of-the-hype-and-hope-americas-energy-future-will-be-based-on-fossil-fuels-not-renewables/

5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_the_United_States#Future_projections

6. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/smart-energy-solutions/increase-renewables/renewable-energy-80-percent-us-electricity.html

7. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/28012019/eia-annual-energy-outlook-coal-renewable-wind-utility-analyst-projections-impact

8. https://www.e-education.psu.edu/egee102/node/1930

9. https://www.prescouter.com/2019/04/2018-was-a-record-year-for-renewable-energy-2019-could-be-the-same/

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