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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for June 2014  |  Release Date: Aug. 25, 2014  |  Next Release Date: Sep. 25, 2014

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Resource Use: June 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 June 2014, net generation in the United States remained generally flat compared to June 2013, only increasing by 0.3 percent relative to the previous year. At the region-level, changes in electricity generation from June 2013 were mixed. The MidAtlantic and Southeast regions saw increases in electricity generation compared to the previous year, while Texas and the West all saw decreases in electricity generation. The Northeast, Central, and Florida all remained relatively flat compared to last June.

Compared to the previous June, the change in electricity generation from coal was split throughout the regions. The Northeast, West, and Texas all saw decreases in electricity generation from coal, while the MidAtlantic, Southeast, and Florida all saw increased coal generation. Electricity generation from coal in the Central region remained relatively flat, only increasing by 5,000 MWh compared to June 2013. The change in electricity generation from natural gas was also split throughout the regions. The Central, West, and Texas all saw decreases in natural gas generation, while the Northeast, MidAtlantic, Southeast, and Florida all saw increases in electricity generation from natural gas.

Total electricity generation from nuclear generations in the U.S. was up 2.6 percent compared to June 2013. The largest increase in electricity generation from nuclear came in the Central and West regions. In the Central region, the increase in nuclear generation occurred because the Monticello and Fort Calhoun nuclear plants were offline in June 2013 (and Fort Calhoun nuclear plant had been offline since May 2011 due to damage caused by severe flooding). Both nuclear plants were online and operating a normal capacity in June 2014. This is also what occurred in the West region, where the Columbia nuclear power plant was offline for refueling in June 2013 and operated at normal capacity in June 2014.

Electricity generation from hydroelectric generators was down 5.3 percent in the U.S. compared to last year, with all regions of the country, except for the Northeast, experiencing a decrease in hydroelectric generation. In June 2014, electricity generation from wind and other renewable generators showed an increase from the previous year. Both Texas and the West had the largest increases in wind and other renewable generation, due to the addition of many new wind and solar plants in those regions.

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 June 2013 and June 2014 by region. This consumption pattern mostly mirrored the change in electricity generation from natural gas, with the MidAtlantic region having the largest percentage increase in natural gas consumption and the Central having the largest percentage decrease.

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 by a slight margin at the expense of natural gas in the Central, Southeast, West, and Florida. Natural gas increased its share of total fossil fuel consumption at the expense of coal in the Northeast, MidAtlantic, and Texas.

The fourth tab presents the change in coal and natural gas consumption on an energy content basis between June 2013 and June 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 first time in three months, the price of natural gas at Henry Hub increased from the previous month, going from $4.69 / MMBtu in May 2014 to $4.71 / MMBtu in June 2014. The natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) decreased for the fifth consecutive month, going from $3.57 / MMBtu in May 2014 to $3.39 / MMBtu in June 2014. Like many natural gas prices in the Northeast, the New York City natural gas price is now below the price of natural gas at Henry Hub. This is mainly due to the growth of natural gas coming out of the Marcellus region and a slight increase in pipeline capacity to the Northeast.

For the fourth consecutive month, the New York Harbor residual oil price decreased from the previous month, going from $17.77 / MMBtu in May 2014 to $17.44 / MMBtu in June 2014. 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 spread between the Henry Hub natural gas price and the price of Central Appalachian coal on a $ / MWh basis widened slightly compared to last month, due to an increase in the price of Henry Hub natural gas and a decrease in the price of Central Appalachian coal. However, because of the continued decrease in the New York City natural gas price, both the price of Central Appalachian coal and the New York City natural gas price are relatively equivalent on a $ / MWh basis.

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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