U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis
Electricity Monthly Update
With Data for November 2016 | Release Date: Jan. 26, 2017 | Next Release Date: Feb. 24, 2017
Resource Use: November 2016
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
In November 2016, net generation in the United States decreased 1.1% from the previous year. The country, as a whole, experienced its second warmest November on record. Normally, as the cooler autumn temperatures begin to take hold across the country each November, many states throughout the country have increased electricity generation due to the increased need for residential heating. However, because extremely warm temperatures persisted throughout the country this November, this suppressed the demand for residential heating and thus, decreased the associated electricity generation that would have been needed. This was particularly pronounced in the central and western parts of the country were heating degree days were significantly lower in November 2016 compared to November 2015.
The change in electricity generation from coal compared to the previous November was mixed throughout the country. The Southeast and Texas both saw increases in coal generation from the previous year, with the largest percent increase occurring in Texas (22.5%). Conversely, the Northeast, MidAtlantic, Central, Florida, and the West regions all saw a decrease in coal generation, with the Northeast region seeing the largest percent decrease (-73.0%) in coal generation.
The change in natural gas generation was also mixed throughout the country, with the MidAtlantic and Central regions all observing increases in natural gas generation compared to last year, while the Northeast, Southeast, Florida, Texas, and the West regions all saw decreases in natural gas generation. As a whole, nuclear generation was up 8.3% compared to the previous November, with only the Central region seeing a decrease in nuclear generation (-6.1%) due to the retirement of the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant and a refueling outage that occurred during November 2016 at Wolf Creek nuclear plant.
Fossil fuel consumption by region
The chart above compares coal consumption in November 2015 and November 2016 by region and the second tab compares natural gas consumption by region. Changes in coal and natural gas consumption closely mirrored the change in 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 November 2016, the Southeast, Florida, Texas, and West regions saw increases in the share of coal consumption at the expense of natural gas consumption, while the Northeast, MidAtlantic, and Central regions all saw natural gas consumption increase at the expense of coal compared to the previous year.
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 decreased from the previous month, going from $3.01/MMBtu in October 2016 to $2.60/MMBtu in November 2016. The natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) increased from the previous month, going from $1.23/MMBtu in October 2016 to $2.23/MMBtu in November 2016.
The New York Harbor residual oil price decreased slightly from the previous month, going from $8.41/MMBtu in October 2016 to $8.01/MMBtu in November 2016. Regardless, oil used as a fuel for electricity generation is almost always priced out of the market.
A fuel price comparison based on equivalent energy content ($/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 below the price of Central Appalachian coal on a $/MWh basis. This was due to the decrease in the price of natural gas at Henry Hub and the slight increase in the price of Central Appalachian coal. The price of natural gas at New York City on a $/MWh basis was still below the price of Central Appalachian coal for a ninth consecutive month, although the spread between the two prices decreased considerably due to the increase in the price of natural gas at New York City.
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.