The economic slowdown wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic will result in lower production, demand and electricity sales in nearly all sectors of the U.S. economy for 2020 and 2021, according to the Energy Information Administration in its monthly report.
And it looks like those same trends are lowering carbon dioxide emissions as well.
After decreasing by 2.8% (150 million metric tons) in 2019, CO2 emissions are expected to further drop by 12.2% (624 MMmt) in 2020 and then rise by 6% (268 MMmt) in 2021, according to EIA's latest
Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO).
“This forecast is highly dependent on assumptions regarding the economic impact and subsequent recovery from COVID-19," federal energy officials noted, adding that emissions also depend on changes in weather, energy prices and fuel mix.
Other predictions in the July 7 report include a 3% decrease in natural gas consumption for 2020, mostly because of lower economic activity in the nation's industrial sector.
That trend will continue in 2021, with natural gas consumption expected to fall by 5%.
According to EIA, “rising prices will reduce the use of natural gas in the electric power sector, which will more than offset increases in natural gas consumption in the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors."
Retail sales of electricity to the industrial sector have generally been declining over the past 10 years, and the economic slowdown resulting from COVID-19 mitigation efforts intensified declines in recent months.
For 2020, EIA forecasts 4.2% less electricity consumption in the U.S. compared to 2019. The largest decline is expected in the commercial and industrial sectors, at 7% and 5.6% respectively. Residential retail sales are predicted to rise about 1.5% in 2021 after staying roughly the same the previous two years.
Coal production will fall by 29% to 501 million short tons (MMst) in 2020, the report said. “This decline largely reflects less demand for coal from the electric power sector and the coal export market," according to EIA.
But rising natural gas prices will increase coal production in 2021 by 7% to 536 MMst because coal prices will become more competitive in the electric power sector, the report said.