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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for October 2016  |  Release Date: Dec. 27, 2016  |  Next Release Date: Jan. 25, 2017

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Highlights: October 2016

  • Due to a mid-October heat wave, Texas (ERCOT) experienced the highest wholesale electricity prices in the country during the month, as prices reached $58/MWh on October 18.
  • Wholesale natural gas prices fell briefly to lows of $0.32/MMBtu in New York City and $0.39/MMBtu in the Mid-Atlantic.
  • Only the Northeast and Western regions saw noticeable declines in net generation compared to October 2015.

Key Indicators

  October 2016 % Change from October 2015
Total Net Generation
(Thousand MWh)
312,788 0.2%
Residential Retail Price
12.45 -2.1%
Retail Sales
(Thousand MWh)
291,985 -1.4%
Heating Degree-Days 168 -26.3%
Natural Gas Price, Henry Hub
3.01 27.3%
Natural Gas Consumption
775,514 -6.0%
Coal Consumption
(Thousand Tons)
54,638 1.8%
Coal Stocks
(Thousand Tons)
163,474 -6.9%
Nuclear Generation
(Thousand MWh)
60,733 0.3%

U.S. electric power industry is getting more beneficial use out of its combustion waste

The U.S. electric power industry's combustion byproducts (CBP) beneficial use rate has risen steadily since 2011, rising from 33% in 2011 to 40% in 2015. The CBP beneficial use rate represents the percentage of total CBP that goes to beneficial uses.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report

CBPs, such as fly ash, bottom ash, and gypsum from flue gas desulfurization (FGD) systems, are produced as a result of the combustion of coal, petroleum coke, residual fuel oil, and wood/wood waste. In the electric power industry, most CBPs are produced as a result of the burning of coal for electricity generation. Power producers report total CBP produced per year and the disposition of the CBP and provide that data to EIA.

CBP disposition includes disposal (onsite landfills, onsite ponds, and disposal offsite), beneficial use (sold, used onsite, and used offsite), and storage (onsite or offsite) for subsequent disposal or sale. Examples of the beneficial use of CBP include the use of CBP in the manufacture of products like concrete and wallboard.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report

Total CBP produced has fallen by almost 17% between 2011 (142.5 million tons) and 2015 (118.8 million tons). This is primarily a result of reduced coal-fired generation and coal consumption in the power industry. In 2011, coal had a 42% share of total power generation, and coal consumption was 934.9 million tons. In 2015, coal's share of power generation was 33%, and coal consumption fell to 739.6 million tons. The recent fall in coal consumption has been driven primarily by increased competition from natural gas and more stringent state and federal environmental regulations.

Against the backdrop of falling CBP production, beneficial use was the only component of CBP to increase. The beneficial use of CBP has increased from 46.9 million tons in 2011 to 47.9 million tons in 2015. CBP disposal fell from 86.9 million tons in 2011 to 67.4 million tons in 2015. CBP storage, meanwhile, decreased from 8.7 million tons in 2011 to 3.5 million tons in 2015.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report

CBPs are generally classified into three categories. Those categories include fly ash, bottom ash, and FGD byproducts. Collectively over the past five years, total CBP was composed of 49% fly ash, 32% FGD byproducts, 18% bottom ash, and a small 1% other category.

CBP is disposed of or used in different ways depending on the type of byproduct, the technology and processes at the power plant, and regulations the power plant has to follow. Averaged over 2011 to 2015, 39% of fly ash, 33% of bottom ash, 38% of FGD byproducts, and 93% of ash from integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) applications were put to beneficial use.

Principal Contributors:

Paul McArdle

Joy Liu

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