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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for April 2014  |  Release Date: June 23, 2014  |  Next Release Date: July 28, 2014   |   Revision

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Resource Use: April 2014

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

In April 2014, net generation in the United States decreased by 0.4 percent compared to April 2013. This slight decrease in electricity generation follows the year over year decrease of 3.8 percent in total heating degree days when April 2013 is compared to April 2014 (see the heating degree day map on the End Use page).

At the region-level, changes in electricity generation from the previous year were mixed. The Northeast, Southeast, Central, and West all saw decreases in electricity generation compared to April 2013, while the Mid-Atlantic, Florida, and Texas all saw increases in electricity generation.

Compared to the previous April, the only regions that saw a significant decrease in electricity generation from coal were the Central and West regions. The change in natural gas generation was more varied, with the West, Texas, and Florida all seeing increases in electricity generation from natural gas compared to April 2013. The Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Central, and Southeast all saw decreases in natural gas generation.

Total electricity generation from hydroelectric generators in the U.S. increased compared to last April. Electricity generation from other renewables increased in all parts of the country, with the largest change from last April coming from an increase in the use of wind and solar.

Fossil fuel consumption by region





map showing electricity regions

The chart above shows that the change in total coal consumption mostly mirrored the change in electricity generation from coal in each region.

The second tab compares natural gas consumption in April 2013 and April 2014 by region. This consumption pattern mirrored the change in electricity generation from natural gas, with the Central region having the largest percent decrease in natural gas consumption and Florida having the largest percentage increase.

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. Coal increased its share of total fossil fuel consumption in all parts of the country except for the West and Florida, where natural gas gained a bigger share of fossil fuel consumption compared to last April.

The fourth tab presents the change in coal and natural gas consumption on an energy content basis between April 2013 and April 2014 by region. Once again, the changes in total coal and natural gas consumption were very 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. For the second consecutive month, the price of natural gas at Henry Hub decreased from the previous month, going from $4.91 / MMBtu in March 2014 to $4.78 / MMBtu in April 2014. The natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) decreased significantly from the previous month, going from $7.97 / MMBtu in March 2014 to $4.26 / MMBtu in April 2014.

For the second consecutive month, the New York Harbor residual oil price decreased from the previous month, going from $19.57 / MMBtu in March 2014 to $18.60 / MMBtu in April 2014. Now that natural gas prices have decreased significantly since the winter months, oil used as a fuel for electricity generation is now 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 spread between the Henry Hub natural gas price and the price of Central Appalachian coal on a $ / MWh basis remained relatively the same compared to last month. However, because of the continued decrease in the New York City natural gas price, the spread between the price of Central Appalachian coal and the New York City natural gas price narrowed even further compared to last 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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