The Future of Energy: What We'll Use and Where It'll Come From
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States consumed 7.28 billion barrels of petroleum products (like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel) in 2017. This country is, by far, the largest oil consumer in the world, accounting for 20 percent of worldwide consumption (though it is home to just over four percent of the world's population). As fossil fuels dwindle and prices rise, it's clear we need to turn to alternative fuels to meet our future energy needs—and the future isn't so far away. We're already starting to see the changes.
In the Next Five Years:
Many people have already found alternatives to oil when it comes to heat and power: consumption is expected to plateau by 2020 and drop from there with the growing popularity of electric vehicles. By 2022, electric vehicles may cost the same as traditional gas-powered automobiles, making them even more appealing.
Still, our reliance on technology has been in increasing, which is especially apparent with smart homes and the internet of things. We will continue to need energy to run the systems that have become a part of daily life.
In the Next 10 Years:
Until recently, we had a unique problem that couldn't have been predicted a generation ago: we couldn't tell how many solar panels were in use and how much energy they were producing. "Without thorough data, utility companies can't plan their energy needs, solar installers don't know the ideal areas for more panels and lawmakers can't incentivize adoption of renewables."
Last year, researchers at Stanford taught a computer to detect solar panels. This AI was able to give us a map of solar usage in the United States, and it detected 50 percent more solar panels than indicated by prior surveys and estimates. This information gives us clues about what is encouraging the use of solar panels (such as tax incentives) and what parts of the country could stand to benefit from more solar installation. With this map, installation can be better planned and the power better utilized.
The cost of solar energy will continue to decrease. The hard costs (like the price of the panels themselves) have been decreasing for awhile, and now the Department of Energy is looking to lower the soft costs like labor, supply chain, and customer acquisition. Consistent regulations, building codes, and incentives will help these costs drop.
Last year, California passed a law that requires most new homes to be built with solar panels starting in 2020. Will more states follow their lead in the next decade?
In the Next 20 Years and Beyond
In the decade leading up to 2016, solar grew an average of 65 percent per year. With such growth continuing, one study predicted up to 80 percent of the energy consumed in the United States could be from renewable sources by 2050 (50 percent from wind and solar, and another 30 percent from other renewables).
It is also predicted that our demand for energy will hit its peak by 2030. Technology continues to improve the efficiency of our homes, vehicles, and gadgets, and we may not need the same amount of energy we do today. With that decreased demand combined with low-cost renewable energy sources like solar, the future of energy is promising, not dismal.
You can bring that future into the present by asking your lawmakers for renewable energy legislation and taking matters into your own hands by installing solar panels on your home. You'll save money on your utility bills and increase the value of your property, and you're preparing yourself for a future that runs on solar power. If you're curious about what solar power can do for your home and your life, contact us.