U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis
Electricity Monthly Update
With Data for April 2016 | Release Date: June 24, 2016 | Next Release Date: July 25, 2016
Resource Use: April 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
Net generation in the United States decreased by only 0.3% from the previous April. This occurred because the country, as a whole, experienced very similar temperatures in both April 2015 and April 2016. At the regional-level, the largest percent change in generation compared to the previous April occurred in Florida. In April 2015, Florida experienced record warm temperatures, whereas in April 2016, the state only experienced above average temperatures. This led to a year-over-year decrease of 3.6% in electricity generation for Florida.
Electricity generation from coal decreased in all regions of the country except for the Northeast and MidAtlantic. However, like last month, the change in natural gas generation from the previous year was more mixed. Florida, Texas, and the West all saw year-over-year decreases in natural gas generation, whereas the Northeast, MidAtlantic, Southeast, and Central regions all observed increases in natural gas generation compared to the previous April. All regions of the country, except for the Northeast, saw an increase in nuclear generation. The Northeast saw a 24.4% drop in nuclear generation compared to April 2015 because the Indian Point 2 nuclear plant in New York was offline for refueling and maintenance.
Fossil fuel consumption by region
The chart above compares coal consumption in April 2015 and April 2016 by region and shows that the change in coal consumption mirrored the change in electricity generation from coal.
The second tab compares natural gas consumption by region and shows that changes in natural gas consumption from the previous April were similar to the changes in electricity generation from natural gas over the same period.
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 April 2016, the share of natural gas consumption increased in almost all regions of the country at the expense of coal consumption compared to the previous year. The only outlier was in the Northeast, where the very small share of coal consumption increased slightly at the expense of natural gas compared to the previous April.
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 increased from the previous month, going from $1.76/MMBtu in March 2016 to $1.96/MMBtu in April 2016. The natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) also increased from the previous month, going from $1.36/MMBtu in March 2016 to $1.61/MMBtu in April 2016.
The New York Harbor residual oil price increased from the previous month, going from $5.35/MMBtu in March 2016 to $5.69/MMBtu in April 2016. Regardless, oil used as a fuel for electricity generation is almost always priced out of the market.
A fuel price comparison based on equivalent energy content ($/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. For the sixteenth consecutive month, the price of natural gas at Henry Hub was below the price of Central Appalachian coal on a $/MWh basis. The spread between the two prices decreased significantly in April 2016, mainly due to the increase in the price of natural gas at Henry Hub. The price of natural gas at New York City on a $/MWh basis was below the price of Central Appalachian coal for a second consecutive month, albeit the spread between the two prices decreased 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.