The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently released its “Annual Energy Outlook 2020” report.

Policy analysts Rachel Fakhry and Robert Harding of the Natural Resources Defense Council wrote an expert blog on Friday that summarized the report’s findings.

Fakhry and Harding helpfully remind us:

The Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) is a projection of the future energy economy based on what’s true today. It relies on existing policies and current technology cost and performance projections to predict emissions and consumption trends in the energy sector. The AEO projections are significant as they are heavily relied upon as a key reference point for numerous energy and policy analyses.

The US energy lowdown

The report is packed with a lot of information, but here are the EIA’s main projections for the US energy sector:

  • Renewable sources of electricity generation will overtake coal as the second-largest source of electricity as early as 2021.
  • Wind and solar will surpass both gas and coal as the largest share of the electricity fuel mix by 2045, largely due to falling costs.
  • EIA projects renewables will grow from 17% of today’s generation to 24% in 2030 and 38% in 2050. It’s possible green energy could surpass these projections.
  • It’s not enough to reduce emissions. This is because the EIA predicts emissions from generating electricity will steadily drop through 2030 but then stagnate through 2050 due to coal power plant capacity staying online post-2030 and gas capacity rapidly expanding.
  • Emissions in the buildings sector stagnate through 2050.
  • Emissions from transportation will decline through 2027, when fuel efficiency standards are set to expire, and then rise through the 2030s and 2040s.
  • To meet the Paris Accord goal (from which the US withdrew), the US must reduce emissions about 3% annually over the next six years — much faster than the 0.9% average annual reduction achieved since 2005.
  • The US must achieve a 45% reduction in emissions by 2030 (compared to 2005) to avert 2 degrees of warming.

Electrek’s Take — and how you can make a difference

Transportation and buildings need to get on the bandwagon, and, for example, follow New York City’s lead. The NRDC offers up these solutions, which Electrek backs completely:

Enact policies that promote construction of net-zero emissions buildings, more electric vehicles, acceleration of clean energy resources, and retirement of dirty fossil plants.

Those solutions are mostly at a big-picture policy level. These challenges may seem overwhelming for individuals who ask:

This is bigger than me. How is it even possible to do anything to help reduce emissions and slow climate change? It feels hopeless.

The good news is, you can make changes, and small changes from individuals add up.

Your country needs you.

I myself am making continuous changes as I learn more, and I then share information with you. Here are some things you can do, and these suggestions are by no means exhaustive:

Energy efficiency: Use LED bulbs (there are even light bulbs that still work if the power goes out), insulate your attics well, install more energy-efficient windows, and keep your heat down in the winter and your air conditioning a bit higher in the summer. Heck, turn the water off when you’re brushing your teeth. If you’re not watching TV, turn it off — same goes with lights.

Consumption: Make food shopping lists to cut down on food waste, and eat less meat. Don’t buy clothes you don’t need, and if you do need something, check out the charity shops. And ditch the single-use plastics — take your own bags to the supermarket, and pick up your produce loose or in paper, if necessary. If you forget your bags, ask for paper. No more plastic plates, cups, and forks. If the Super Bowl can do it, so can you. And recycle the right way. Recycling reform is needed in the US, but in the meantime, do your part.

Home/apartment energy: Switch from gas to electricity if you own your home. I switched from a gas stove to an electric stove, and a gas tankless water heater to an electric tankless water heater. Guess what? My electric bill stayed about the same, because my appliances are efficient. We also use an electric lawnmower, and heat our pool with solar (yes, a pool is a big privilege, and I keep my house temperature warmer in the summer). Choose energy-efficient appliances — contrary to dishwasher propaganda, they work just fine. I used them for years in the UK, and use them now. We are actively working on having solar panels installed, but in the meantime, we source our electricity from Arcadia Power, which is powered by green energy. It took me five minutes to sign up.

Transport: If you read Electrek (which you clearly do, because here you are), you’ll know the leaps and bounds the electric vehicle industry is making. Learn all you can, and if it’s time to buy a new (or used) car, then purchase an electric vehicle. I’ve never met a person who regretted switching to an EV. If you aren’t in a position to buy one, then consider an e-bike, e-scooter, or e-motorcycle, or simply ride a bicycle… or walk. If you have to commute to work in an ICE vehicle, then carpool. Work from home if possible.

Bonus: You’ll save money by doing these things. The planet, and your wallet, will thank you.

If you have further suggestions for individuals to switch to green energy, adopt more eco-friendly habits, and help the environment, please leave them in the comments section below!

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