The EPA is expected to enact several key regulations in the coming decade that will have an impact on the U.S. power sector, particularly the fleet of coal-fired power plants. Because the rules have not yet been finalized, their impacts cannot be fully analyzed, and they are not included in the Reference case. However, AEO2011 does include several alternative cases that examine the sensitivity of power generation markets to various assumed requirements for environmental retrofits. In addition, a case with an explicit price on CO2 emissions is also examined.
Electricity demand growth has slowed in each decade since the 1950s. After 9.8-percent annual growth in the 1950s, demand (including retail sales and direct use) increased 2.4 percent per year in the 1990s. From 2000 to 2009 (including the 2008-2009 economic downturn) demand grew by 0.5 percent per year. In the Reference case, electricity demand growth rebounds but remains relatively slow, as growing demand for electricity services is offset by efficiency gains from new appliance standards and investments in energy-efficient equipment.