Key results of the USA Energy [R]evolution scenario

Page - July 13, 2010
The development of the electricity supply sector under the Energy [R]evolution is characterized by a dynamically growing renewable energy market and an increasing share of renewable electricity. This will compensate for the phasing out of nuclear energy and reduce the number of fossil fuel-fired power plants required for grid stabilization. By 2050, 96% of the electricity produced in the USA will come from renewable energy sources, while creating over a million jobs and saving us $89 billion per year in fuel costs.

Greenpeace Energy Revolution graphic

Energy demand by sector


Combining the projections on population development, GDP growth and energy intensity results in future development pathways for the USA's final energy demand. These are shown in Figure 6.1 for the Reference and both Energy [R]evolution scenarios. Under the Reference scenario total primary energy demand increases by more than 7% from the current 97,394 PJ/a to 103,577 PJ/a in 2050. In the Energy [R]evolution scenario, energy demand decreases by 40% compared to current consumption and is expected to reach 58,651 PJ/a by 2050. In the advanced version, transport sector demand in the USA is 13% lower by 2050 than in the basic Energy [R]evolution scenario; other sectors remain approximately the same.

Under the Energy [R]evolution scenario electricity demand is expected to decrease in the industry sector but to grow in the transport sector, whereas in the residential and service sectors electricity demand remains nearly constant (see Figure 6.2). Total electricity demand will rise to 4,636 TWh/a by the year 2050. Compared to the Reference scenario, efficiency measures in industry and other sectors avoid the generation of about 2,178 TWh/a. This reduction can be achieved in particular by introducing highly efficient electronic devices using the best available technology in all demand sectors.

Efficiency gains in the heat supply sector are even larger. Under the Energy [R]evolution scenario demand for heat supply will grow up to 2030 but can then even be reduced to below the current level of demand (see Figure 6.3). Compared to the Reference scenario, consumption equivalent to 2,517 PJ/a is avoided through efficiency gains by 2050 in both Energy [R]evolution scenarios. As a result of energy-related renovation of the existing stock of residential buildings, as well as the introduction of low energy standards and 'passive houses' for new buildings, enjoyment of the same comfort and energy services will be accompanied by a much lower future energy demand.

In the transport sector, it is assumed under the Energy [R]evolution scenario that energy demand will decrease by half to 13,505 PJ/a by 2050, saving 49% compared to the Reference scenario. This reduction can be achieved by the introduction of highly efficient vehicles, by shifting the transport of goods from road to rail and by changes in mobility-related behavior patterns. The advanced version will further decrease demand - through lifestyle changes, increased efficiency in transport systems and a higher share of electric drives - to 56% below the reference case

Greenpeace Energy Revolution figure 6.1 Click to view large image

Electricity generation

Greenpeace Energy Revolution table 6.1The development of the electricity supply sector is characterized by a dynamically growing renewable energy market and an increasing share of renewable electricity. This will compensate for the phasing out of nuclear energy and reduce the number of fossil fuel-fired power plants required for grid stabilization. By 2050, 96% of the electricity produced in the USA will come from renewable energy sources. 'New' renewables – mainly wind, solar thermal energy and PV – will contribute over 75% of electricity generation. The advanced Energy [R]evolution scenario will not increase this share significantly. By 2030 78% and by 2050 99% will come from renewables, but the overall installed capacity of renewable generation (2533 GW) will be higher than in the basic version.

Table 6.1 shows the comparative evolution of different renewable technologies over time. Up to 2020, hydro power, photovoltaics (PV), and wind will remain the main contributors. After 2020, the continuing growth of wind will and PV be complemented by electricity from biomass, ocean, geothermal, and solar thermal (CSP) energy.

Greenpeace Energy Revolution figure 6.5
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Future costs of electricity generation

Figure 6.6 shows that the introduction of renewable technologies under the Energy [R]evolution scenario significantly decreases the future costs of electricity generation compared to the Reference scenario. Because of the lower CO2 intensity of electricity generation, costs will become economically favorable under the Energy [R]evolution scenario and by 2050 will be more than 4 cents/kWh below those in the Reference version.

Figure 6.6 shows that the Energy [R]evolution scenario not only complies with the USA CO2 reduction targets but also helps to stabilize energy costs and relieve the economic pressure on society. Increasing energy efficiency and shifting energy supply to renewables leads to long term costs for electricity supply that are one third lower than in the Reference scenario.

Electricity supply and development costs
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Job results

The Energy [R]evolution scenarios lead to more energy sector jobs in USA at every stage of the projection.

  • There are 1.1 million energy sector jobs in the Energy [R]evolution scenario and 1.4 in the advanced version by 2015, compared to 0.47 million in the Reference scenario.
  • By 2020 job numbers reach 1.17million in the Energy [R]evolution scenario (1.34 million in the advanced version), twice as much as in the Reference scenario.
  • By 2030 job numbers in the renewable energy sector reach 834,000 in the Energy [R]evolution scenario, 1.1 million in the advanced version) and reach only 231,000 in the Reference scenario.

Greenpeace Energy Revolution table 6.2

Fuel cost savings with renewable energy

The total fuel cost savings in the Energy [R]evolution scenario reach a total of $3.8 trillion, or $89 billion per year. The advanced Energy [R]evolution has even higher fuel cost savings of $6.3 trillion, or $146 billion per year. This is because renewable energy has no fuel costs. So in both cases the additional investment for renewable power plants refinance entirely via the fuel cost savings, which add up to $3.8 trillion ($6.3 trillion advanced) from today until 2050. This is enough to compensate for the entire investment in renewable and cogeneration capacity required to implement both of the Energy [R]evolution scenarios.