Energy use continues to rebound as the nation's economy recovers and state and local governments ease COVID-19 restrictions, according to federal officials.
Power consumption is expected to rise by 2.3% across the residential, industrial and commercial sectors this year after falling by 3.9% last year, according to the Energy Information Administration's latest Short-Term Energy Outlook. EIA is now forecasting a 1.4% increase in retail electricity sales this year, compared to last month's projection of a 1% increase.
The residential sector is expected to see a 2.8% jump in retail electricity sales, the largest among the three sectors. “This growth is primarily a result of colder temperatures in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020," EIA said in the June 8 report.
Retail electricity sales to the industrial and commercial sectors will rise a combined 2% this year, a slightly lower projection than last month's forecast.
As a result of rising electricity demand, the agency expects coal production to total 600 million short tons (MMst) this year, an 11% increase over 2020. In 2022, coal production is expected to grow an additional 1%.
In May, the natural gas spot price at Henry Hub averaged $2.91 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), 25 cents higher than April's $2.66/MMBtu. EIA expects the spot price to average $2.92/MMBtu in the third quarter of 2021 and $3.07/MMBtu for all of 2021. That's up from the 2020 average of $2.03/MMBtu.
“Higher natural gas prices this year primarily reflect two factors: growth in liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports and rising domestic natural gas consumption outside of the power sector," the agency said. “In 2022, we expect the Henry Hub price will average $2.93/MMBtu amid slowing growth in LNG exports and rising U.S. natural gas production."
EIA's forecast of planned additions to the nation's wind and solar generating capacity this year and next year holds steady this month. The agency estimates an additional 16.0 gigawatts of new wind capacity will come online in 2021 and 5.3 GW in 2022. Utility-scale solar capacity is expected to rise by 15.5 GW in 2021 and 16.6 GW in 2022.
In particular, the report noted, a significant amount of small-scale solar capacity—systems of less than 1 megawatt—will be added in Texas. In 2021 and 2022, 4 GW to 5 GW will come online in the state.