Coal’s share of power generation keeps declining

June 5, 2012 by Ken Ward Jr.

Here’s the latest from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration:

Amid historically low natural gas prices and the warmest March ever recorded in much of the United States, coal’s share of total net generation dropped to 34%—the lowest level since at least January 1973 (the earliest date for which EIA has monthly statistics). Despite seasonally low loads, natural gas-fired generation grew markedly and accounted for 30% of overall net generation by March 2012 (see chart above). Total electricity demand fell this winter as warmer weather reduced home heating requirements.

Coal generation decreased 29 billion kilowatthours from March 2011 to March 2012, while natural gas generation increased 27 billion kilowatthours during the same time period. In March 2012, coal’s share of total generation was 34% compared to natural gas at 30%.

Natural gas prices were near 10-year lows this winter, leading the generators in some states (such as Ohio and Pennsylvania) to increase their dispatch of natural gas-fired plants. Newer vintage natural gas-fired units operate at higher efficiency than older, fossil-fired units, which increases the competitiveness of natural gas relative to coal.

For a regional analysis of generation and consumption in March 2012 compared to March 2011, see the Electricity Monthly Update. For national and state-level statistics, see the Electric Power Monthly.

One Response to “Coal’s share of power generation keeps declining”

  1. Paul H says:

    OK, I get it. The Obama administration is not conspiring with the EPA to shut down coal burning power plants. They are just enforcing regulations passed under the Bush era. The power companies are not bowing to the environmentalists, because all 100 of these coal fired power plants are old and worn out, too expensive to fix. Converting to natural gas is more “cost effective”. Wouldn’t be fair to pass on the public, the cost of upgrading plants to meet new pollution regulations.

    Since natural gas was at a “ten year low”, why is my electric bill at a ten year high? Fuel is the greatest expense of power generation. When will the consumers see this economic advantage?

    How about investigating the amount of natural gas releasted during drilling and transport. A molicule of natural gas has more green house effect than a molicule of CO2. If you don’t believe me ask a tree.

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