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Short-Term Energy Outlook

Release Date: August 9, 2016  |  Next Release Date: September 7, 2016  |  Full Report    |   Text Only   |   All Tables   |   All Figures

Electricity

EIA estimates that the amount of electricity generated by U.S. natural gas-fired power plants reached a record high of 4,950 gigawatthours per day (GWh/d) in July, 9% higher than the previous record set in July 2015. Much of this growth in natural gas generation has occurred in the Midwest and South Census regions, where July generation from natural gas grew by an estimated 209 GWh/d (55%) and 313 GWh/d (12%), respectively, from the same month last year. July 2016 natural gas generation in the West Census region was 161 GWh/d (19%) lower than in July 2015 because of increased output from hydroelectric and other renewable sources.

Electricity Cosumption

EIA projects that retail electricity sales to the residential sector during the peak summer months of June-August 2016 will be 3% higher than in the same months in 2015. Growth in residential sales reflects warmer summer weather this year, with cooling degree days during June-August 2016 11% higher than in the same months of 2015. For all of 2016, EIA projects residential sales will be 0.6% lower than in 2015, as higher summer consumption is offset by lower electricity consumption during the mild winter earlier this year. Forecast residential sales grow by 0.9% in 2017. Sales of electricity to the commercial sector grow by 0.3% in 2016 and by 0.9% in 2017. EIA forecasts that industrial electricity sales will decline by 0.5% in 2016, but then rise by 1.2% in 2017.

Figure 23: U.S. Total Electricity Consumption

Electricity Generation

Sustained low natural gas prices have led the power industry to produce record levels of electricity using natural gas in recent months. In 2016, natural gas is expected to supply 34.3% of electricity generation, and coal is forecast to supply 30.3% of electricity generation. Nuclear and renewables (including hydropower) are forecast to supply 19.4% and 14.8% of electricity generation, respectively. Rising projected costs of natural gas encourage more electricity generation from coal-fired power plants during 2017. The natural gas share of electricity generation in 2017 is forecast to fall to 33.3%, and the coal share of generation is expected to rise to 31.1%. In 2017, nuclear and renewables are forecast to supply 19.1% and 15.3% of electricity generation, respectively. The 2015 shares of electricity generation by fuel were 32.7% for natural gas, 33.2% for coal, 19.5% for nuclear, and 13.4% for renewables.

Electricity Retail Prices

The U.S. residential electricity price averaged an estimated 13.0 cents per kilowatthour (kWh) in July 2016. For the month, the highest residential electricity price was 17.9 cents/kWh in New England, and the lowest residential electricity price was 10.7 cents/kWh in the East South Central area. EIA expects the annual average U.S. residential electricity price to fall by 0.3% in 2016 and then rise by 3.0% in 2017.

U.S. Electricity Summary
  2014 2015 2016 2017
Retail Prices (cents per kilowatthour)
Residential Sector 12.52 12.67 12.64 13.02
Commercial Sector 10.74 10.59 10.51 10.77
Industrial Sector 7.10 6.90 6.78 6.93
Power Generation Fuel Costs (dollars per million Btu)
Coal 2.36 2.23 2.19 2.24
Natural Gas 4.98 3.22 2.99 3.54
Residual Fuel Oil 19.19 10.36 7.90 9.47
Distillate Fuel Oil 22.32 14.43 10.90 13.84
Generation (billion kWh per day)
Coal 4.333 3.715 3.377 3.497
Natural Gas 3.087 3.658 3.831 3.751
Nuclear 2.184 2.184 2.170 2.154
Conventional Hydroelectric 0.705 0.682 0.739 0.726
Renewable (non-hydroelectric) 0.765 0.817 0.913 0.999
Total Generation 11.215 11.198 11.160 11.260
Retail Sales (billion kWh per day)
Residential Sector 3.86 3.84 3.81 3.85
Commercial Sector 3.70 3.72 3.73 3.77
Industrial Sector 2.73 2.63 2.61 2.64
Total Retail Sales 10.31 10.20 10.18 10.28
Primary Assumptions (percent change from previous year)
Real DIsposable Personal Income 2.7 3.5 3.1 2.6
Manufacturing Production Index 1.3 1.1 0.2 1.5
Cooling Degree Days -0.7 14.6 0.0 -5.3
Heating Degree Days 1.9 -10.2 -2.6 4.0
Number of Households 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.1

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