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The United States is dependent on fossil fuels for almost all its energy supply. Coal dominates electricity generation, accounting for half of its power production, with nuclear and natural gas around one-fifth each.

Natural gas overtook nuclear to become the second biggest source of power in 2006, reports a recent publication, Energy Policies of IEA Countries: United States, and renewable energy sources, including hydro, produced 9.5% of electricity.

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Electricity demand in the US increased by 41% between 1990 and 2005, and is expected to continue growing, albeit at a slower rate, says the IEA. Gas-fired power plants represent about half of new capacity currently under construction, and most capacity additions over the period to 2010 and even 2015 are also expected to be gas-based. Beyond 2015, coal-fired plants are expected to play a more important role, and will eventually make up more than half of newly added capacity in 2006-2030, leaving gas with 36% of new capacity up to 2030.

Renewable energy is expected to provide around 6% of new capacity, says the study, thanks in part to the influence of renewable energy standards introduced in some states. New energy sources such as geothermal, biomass/waste, and solar capacity increased slightly from 2001 to 2005, while wind is the dominant new renewable energy source. New nuclear capacity is expected to provide around 4% of electricity. The report believes that a nuclear revival in the US is now likely, although the first new plants will not enter service until 2015 at the earliest, and then only in small numbers.

Energy Policies of IEA Countries: United States is available at www.oecdbookshop.org, ISBN 9789264030732.

©OECD Observer No 266 March 2008