Overall, the report predicts that the growth of energy use will slow over the next quarter-century, reflecting an extended economic recovery and increasing energy efficiency in end-use applications.
Among other things, the DOE said the energy intensity of the U.S. economy, measured as primary energy use per dollar of gross domestic product, will decline by 42 percent from 2010 to 2035.
Over the next 25 years, coal's share of overall electricity generation was projected to fall to 39 percent, well below the 49-percent share seen as recently as 2007.
EIA cited slow growth in electricity demand, continued competition from natural gas and renewable plants, and the need to comply with new environmental regulations.
The EIA analysis, though, does not include impacts from any potential regulation of greenhouse gas emissions or the latest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air-toxics rule for power plants. EIA has also noted that the cheapest coal reserves in Central Appalachia have already been extensively mined, and has not said that EPA's crackdown on mountaintop removal is a major factor in projections for future production declines.
EIA analysts projected strong growth for renewable energy sources, from 10 percent of U.S. electricity generation to 16 percent over the same period.
Natural gas growth was projected as more modest, from 24 percent of power generation in 2010 to 27 percent in 2035, according to EIA.
In a speech last week to an industry conference, National Mining Association President Hal Quinn cautioned against looking only at the domestic coal market, arguing that coal exports are going to be a bigger and bigger part of the industry's strategy.
"Asia's voracious appetite for coal to sustain its growth with affordable power logically benefits the country with the world's largest coal reserves," Quinn said. "We have the most of what the fast growing countries want the most of."
But the EIA projects Appalachia will continue to account for a smaller and smaller share of all U.S. coal output. The regional share of domestic coal production, measured in terms of energy output, is expected to drop from 39 percent to 29 percent, also between 2010 and 2035, the EIA projected. EIA said the share of domestic coal coming from western mines would increase from 47 percent in 2010 to 56 percent in 2035.Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.