Electricity

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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for April 2017  |  Release Date: June 23, 2017  |  Next Release Date: July 25, 2017

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Resource Use: April 2017

Supply and fuel consumption

In this section, we look at the resources used to produce electricity. Generating units are chosen to run primarily on their operating costs, of which fuel costs account for the lion's share. Therefore, we present below, electricity generation output by fuel type and generator type. Since the generator/fuel mix of utilities varies significantly by region, we also present generation output by region.

Generation output by region



map showing electricity regions

Net generation in the United States increased by only 0.3% compared to April 2016. The country, as a whole, experienced temperatures that were warmer than normal in April 2017, although temperatures the previous April were also warmer than normal. At the regional-level, all states east of the Mississippi River saw significantly above average temperatures, with many states in the MidAtlantic experiencing record heat in April 2017. Only states located in the northwest part of the country saw temperatures that were near or slightly below average during the month.

All regions of the country, except for the Northeast and MidAtlantic, saw an increase in electricity generation from coal compared to April 2016. Electricity generation from natural gas decreased in all parts of the country, with the Central region seeing the largest percent decrease (-30.1%) compared to the previous year. The overall increase in coal generation and subsequent decrease in natural gas generation mainly occurred due to the rise in natural gas prices that happened over the past year.

Net generation from nuclear was down 9.0%, as many nuclear plants were offline for spring maintenance compared to the previous year. Electricity generation from other renewable sources was up in all regions of the country, with Texas seeing the largest percent increase (39.7%) due to an increase in wind and solar plants that have come online since the previous year.

Fossil fuel consumption by region





map showing electricity regions

The chart above compares coal consumption in April 2016 and April 2017 by region and the second tab compares natural gas consumption by region over the same period. Changes in coal and natural gas consumption closely mirrored their respective changes in coal and natural gas generation.

The third tab presents the change in the relative share of fossil fuel consumption by fuel type on a percentage basis, calculated using equivalent energy content (Btu). This highlights changes in the relative market shares of coal, natural gas, and petroleum. In April 2017, all regions of the country, except for the Northeast, saw an increase in the share of coal consumption at the expense of natural gas consumption.

The fourth tab presents the change in coal and natural gas consumption on an energy content basis by region. The changes in total coal and natural gas consumption were similar to the changes seen in total coal and natural gas net generation in each region.

Fossil fuel prices




To gain some insight into the changing pattern of consumption of fossil fuels over the past year, we look at relative monthly average fuel prices. A common way to compare fuel prices is on an equivalent $/MMBtu basis as shown in the chart above. The average price of natural gas at Henry Hub increased from the previous month, going from $2.96/MMBtu in March 2017 to $3.19/MMBtu in April 2017. However, the natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) decreased from the previous month, going from $3.57/MMBtu in March 2017 to $2.91/MMBtu in April 2017.

The New York Harbor residual oil price saw an increase from the previous month, going from $8.26/MMBtu in March 2017 to $8.44/MMBtu in April 2017. Regardless, oil used as a fuel for electricity generation is almost always priced out of the market.

A fuel price comparison based on equivalent energy content ($/MMBtu) does not reflect differences in energy conversion efficiency (heat rate) among different types of generators. Gas-fired combined-cycle units tend to be more efficient than coal-fired steam units. The second tab shows coal and natural gas prices on an equivalent energy content and efficiency basis. The price of natural gas at Henry Hub was above the price of Central Appalachian coal on a $/MWh basis. This was mainly due to the rise in the price of natural gas at Henry Hub from the previous month. However, the price of natural gas at New York City on a $/MWh basis was below the price of Central Appalachian coal, due to the decrease in the price of natural gas at New York City since the previous month.

The conversion shown in this chart is done for illustrative purposes only. The competition between coal and natural gas to produce electricity is more complex. It involves delivered prices and emission costs, the terms of fuel supply contracts, and the workings of fuel markets.

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Resource Use

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