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.”



4 Responses to “A “Market Driven Moratorium” on New Coal in US”

  1. Nick Carter Says:

    More good news! Love it.

  2. andrewfez Says:

    I think I made a comment on here a year or so ago that said something like, ‘Americans are so wasteful when it comes to energy use that it would be ‘easy’ to reduce usage if there were motivation…’

    I recall RMI talking about existing gas turbine plants whose designs were out of date, having been conceived at a time when energy was cheap, that could be retrofitted using yesterdays tech to become more efficient.

    Then there’s Larry Hartweg’s Zero Energy designs he came up with in the late 1970’s regarding homes that have less need for expensive heating and cooling by using a ‘Thermal Buffer Zone’ that uses simple air/heat flow ideas that keep an inner chamber (living area) from getting too hot or cold from exterior forcing:

  3. twemoran Says:

    The NIC report forecasts a 50% increase in global energy requirements by 2030

    “Demand for resources will increase owing to an increase in global population from 7.1
    billion today to about 8 billion by 2030. Demand for food set to rise 35 percent; energy 50 percent over the next 15-20

    This, unfortunately is the report political types will use to justify their decisions, at least in the States.



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