NEW YORK - U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions will be 7 percent lower than their 2005 level of nearly 6 billion metric tons in 2020 as coal's share of electricity production continues a steady descent over the next two decades, according to new government data.
The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released an early version of its annual energy outlook on Monday, which predicted a slowdown in growth of energy use over the next two decades amid economic recovery and improved energy efficiency.
The report highlights the fact that carbon-intensive coal generation will see a major decline in the power sector in the coming decades, which will ensure energy-related CO2 emissions will not exceed 2005 levels at any point before 2035.
The report also showed that emissions per capita would fall an average of 1 percent per year from 2005 to 2035 as the new federal standards, state renewable energy mandates and higher energy prices would temper the growth of demand for transportation fuels.
"Over the next 25 years, the projected coal share of overall electricity generation falls to 39 percent, well below the 49-percent share seen as recently as 2007, because of slow growth in electricity demand, continued competition from natural gas and renewable plants, and the need to comply with new environmental regulations," it said.
The retirement of old, inefficient coal-fired power plants will outpace new construction, and the report added that gas-fired plants - which are cheaper to build - will generate 13 percent more power in 2012 than they did last year.
Meanwhile, the share of electricity generation from renewable fuels is expected to grow from 10 percent in 2010 to 16 percent by 2035, according to the EIA.
The Obama Administration has set a target under the U.N. for the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.
Congress has not been able to pass comprehensive energy and climate change legislation that would help ensure the target is met, but the administration hopes a combination of federal regulations and state emission-reduction programs can achieve the cuts.
The report said that the U.S. will remain an importer of oil while it becomes for the first time a net exporter of natural gas within the next 25 years.
The agency cautioned that the results of the outlook may change when it publishes the final annual energy outlook in April this year.
Reporting by Valerie Volcovici