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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for April 2016  |  Release Date: June 24, 2016  |  Next Release Date: July 25, 2016

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Highlights: April 2016

Key Indicators

  April 2016 % Change from April 2015
Total Net Generation
(Thousand MWh)
293,317 -0.3%
Residential Retail Price
12.43 -1.7%
Retail Sales
(Thousand MWh)
266,376 -2.3%
Heating Degree-Days 317 5.3%
Natural Gas Price, Henry Hub
1.96 -26.6%
Natural Gas Consumption
757,330 9.1%
Coal Consumption
(Thousand Tons)
39,064 -19.5%
Coal Stocks
(Thousand Tons)
196,163 17.0%
Nuclear Generation
(Thousand MWh)
62,365 4.4%

The total output over a 12-month period of U.S. electric generators fueled by natural gas surpassed those fueled by coal for first time in January 2016

The rolling 12-month total of natural gas-fired generation in the United States ending in January 2016 was higher than the rolling total for coal-fired generation for the first time. Demonstrating that this was not a one-month anomaly, the running 12-month totals for natural gas continued to be higher in February, March, and April 2016.

April 2015 was the first month that electricity generated from natural gas-fired sources was greater than generation from coal-fired sources. Coal-fired generation was greater the next two months, but every month through April 2016 thereafter - with the exception of January 2016 - natural gas-fired generation was greater. A recent EIA Short-Term Energy Outlook forecasts that 2016 will be the first calendar year when natural gas-fired generation will surpass coal-fired generation in the United States.

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

The competition between coal and natural gas generators to produce electricity on a day-to-day basis involves careful consideration of delivered fuel prices and emission costs, operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, the terms of fuel supply contracts, and the workings of fuel markets. In the longer term, market participants must evaluate the relative capital cost of new capacity, as well as their expectations regarding fuel, O&M, and emission control costs. Based on all these factors, electricity generators making these complicated decisions have turned more to natural gas recently.

As recently as March 2011, the total electricity output of U.S. coal-fired generators was more than double that of natural gas-fired generators. Over the past five years, the gap has closed. The recent decline in the generation share of coal and the concurrent rise in the share of natural gas appears to have been primarily the result of lower natural gas prices.

Principal Contributor:

Ronald Hankey

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