Energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions have gone down in the pandemic. Overall energy consumption – which includes electric and hydrocarbons – will return to old levels in years, not months.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency issues an annual outlook. That came out just recently. A few of the findings.

EIA projects that total U.S. energy consumption will return to 2019 levels by 2029, although that projection is highly dependent on the pace of U.S. economic recovery. Check the chart below.

If there is low economic growth, energy consumption does not return to 2019 levels until 2050. In most of the projections of various economic scenarios, U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions will decrease through 2035 and then increase.

Renewable energy incentives and falling technology costs support robust competition with natural gas, coal, and nuclear power decrease in the electricity mix. ECC notes that gas and coal are hydrocarbon-based fuels.

Nuclear is a carbon-free power source and can play a big part in decarbonizing U.S. power. The nuclear level in the chart shows there is room for growth. Perhaps advances in small modular reactors can help the U.S. effort to decarbonize the power system. Policy advances have to help that along.

Electricity demand will largely return to 2019 levels by 2025. Renewable electric generating technologies are projected to account for almost 60% of the capacity additions from 2020 to 2050.

In this look at a three-year rolling average of electricity growth (right) there is a big rebound in power usage in the immediate future. Perhaps this is because of the increased electrification of the U.S. energy system – electric vehicles replacing petroleum vehicles and using gas in buildings being replaced with electric heat and cooking, for instance.

The ultimate takeaway for consumers is that the evolving energy system we have seen recently is only going to change faster. That will require consumers to keep learning about their energy options.