A “Market Driven Moratorium” on New Coal in US
May 28, 2013
This may already be old news to people who read this blog, but here it is again.
The building sector is set to use far less energy in the next three decades than previously thought, according to the 2013 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Driven primarily by efficiency regulations for lighting and HVAC equipment, individual homes and commercial buildings show steady declines in energy use through 2040, says the agency. Architecture 2030, which crunches the numbers each year, has released a chart comparing 2013 projections with prior ones, declaring, “The building sector is tracking ahead of the 2030 reduction targets.”
“When I looked at the numbers and looked across the board at all the statistics, I just literally fell off my chair,” says Ed Mazria, FAIA, founder and CEO of Architecture 2030, which is known for its 2030 Challenge to radically curtail fossil-fuel consumption in the built environment. “Looking at projections out to 2030, we’re adding about 60 billion square feet, and the numbers are still flat.” That represents a 22.6% increase in building floor area, says the organization—a rate that attempts to take a slow recession recovery into account for the near term without giving it undue influence in the long term. (The model assumes an average annual growth of 2.5% in gross domestic product through 2040—projecting slightly slower recession recovery through 2015 than some other federal agencies and slightly faster recovery than others.)
“What this means is we have no need to add more electricity—no new power plants—to service the building sector today or in the near future,” reads an enthusiastic statement from Architecture 2030 about the AEO. EBN wanted to know how that’s possible as energy demand increases overall.
There’s more complexity to the picture, and the full article here discusses some of the details and caveats. A few devils exist, but the overall picture is that business as usual in the power industry has come to an end.
“We are seeing a market-driven moratorium on more plants,” Mazria argues. “Duke Energy, the largest utility in the country, just shelved three nuclear plants they were going to build, and they’re talking about phasing out coal plants and not replacing them.” (Duke serves a region of the country hit hard by the recession, though, and new power plants are being built in California, Nevada, and other Western states.)
He also pointed out that the reference case is quite conservative, assuming only that current policies will stay in place as written, but he believes that what EIA calls “high demand technology” is very much in play.
“I think we’re already building to Energy Star standards,” and a 25% better shell by 2040 is definitely “doable,” he said. “The reference case has come down every year. I predict it will come down even further.” And coal plants that are phased out where energy demand is still high will likely be replaced with renewables, he adds, “so I think we’ve reached an incredible milestone today. We’re talking about—on a national scale—not really increasing our generating capacity. Maybe actually decreasing the need.”