Today in Energy

Dec 19, 2014

Power sector employment declines, except for renewable electricity generators

graph of U.S. electric power sector jobs in generation by source, as explained in the article text
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages
Note: 2014 data are preliminary.

The electric power generation sector lost more than 5,800 jobs from January 2011 through June 2014 despite a gain of nearly 1,800 non-hydro renewable electricity generation jobs, according to the latest data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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Dec 18, 2014

Wind power capacity additions expected to increase in last quarter of 2014

graph of annual wind capacity and cumulative wind capacity, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Forms EIA860A and EIA860M
Note: Data include facilities with a net summer capacity of 1 MW and above only. Data are reported as of November 25, 2014, covering through September of 2014. Data are based the reported online dates of currently operational or planned wind generation facilities. The "<2005" category includes all currently operational projects added prior to 2005.

On December 16, the Senate approved a bill (already passed by the House of Representatives on December 3) that retroactively extends the federal production tax credit (PTC) for wind plants, which had previously expired at the end of 2013. However, because of timing, this extension is unlikely to spur significant additional wind development activity beyond what installers had already planned. First introduced in 1992, the PTC allows eligible wind generators to take an inflation-adjusted tax credit per unit of generation (2.3 cents per kilowatthour in 2014) for the first ten years of operation.

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Dec 17, 2014

OPEC net oil export revenues expected to fall in 2014 and 2015

graph of OPEC net oil export revenues, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook
Note: OPEC is the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Iran is excluded because current sanctions make it difficult to estimate revenues. The 2014 revenue estimates are subject to revision as historical production and consumption data are updated.

Based on crude oil market assessments in the Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA estimates that members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), excluding Iran, will earn about $700 billion in revenue from net oil exports in 2014, a 14% decrease from 2013 earnings and the lowest earnings for the group since 2010. OPEC earnings declined in 2014 largely for two reasons: decreases in the amount of OPEC oil exports and lower oil prices, with the 2014 average for Brent crude oil projected to be 8% below the average 2013 price.

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Dec 16, 2014

U.S. household gasoline expenditures in 2015 on track to be the lowest in 11 years

graph of average annual household expenditures on gasoline and motor oil, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook

The average U.S. household is expected to spend about $550 less on gasoline in 2015 compared with 2014, as annual motor fuel expenditures are on track to fall to their lowest level in 11 years. Lower fuel expenditures are attributable to a combination of falling retail gasoline prices and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks that reduce the number of gallons used to travel a given distance.

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Dec 15, 2014

Gasoline prices tend to have little effect on demand for car travel

graph of regular retail gasoline prices and U.S. vehicle miles traveled, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis
Note: VMT is vehicle miles traveled. Per capita figures reflect U.S. population age 16 and over. Vehicle miles traveled figures are 12-month rolling averages.

Republished December 17, 2014, 2:00 p.m. to correct an error in the graph.

The U.S. average retail price per gallon of regular motor gasoline has fallen 28% from its 2014 peak of $3.70 per gallon on June 23, to $2.68 per gallon on December 8. However, this price decline may not have much effect on automobile travel, and in turn, gasoline consumption. Gasoline is a relatively inelastic product, meaning changes in prices have little influence on demand.

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Dec 12, 2014

Despite lower crude oil prices, U.S. crude oil production expected to grow in 2015

graph of drilling and production activities in North Dakota, as explained in the article text
Source: North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources, Bloomberg

Republished December 12, 4:00 p.m. to update data.

The recent decline in crude oil prices has created the potential for weaker crude oil production. EIA's Drilling Productivity Report (DPR) includes indicators that provide details on the effect low prices may have on tight oil production, which accounts for 56% of total U.S. oil production. Analyzing these indicators and the changes in oil production following the drop in crude oil prices during the 2008-09 recession may offer some insight into possible near-term oil production trends.

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Dec 11, 2014

Several states are adding or increasing incentives for electric vehicle charging stations

map of electric vehicle charging stations in the lower 48, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Alternative Fuels Data Center

During the past few years, several models of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs), including battery electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), have been introduced in the light-duty vehicle market. PEVs are limited by driving range, which is related to battery capacity, and can usually travel between 60 and 200 miles before recharging. Therefore, charging infrastructure is crucial to the success of these kinds of vehicles. To address this issue, states have established plans to promote the development of infrastructure through financial incentives for the building of new public and private recharging facilities.

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Dec 10, 2014

California leads the nation in the adoption of electric vehicles

map of EV registration in the United States, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Federal Highway Administration data and R.L. Polk & Company

In 2013, there were about 70,000 battery electric vehicles (EVs) and 104,000 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs)—small numbers compared to around 226 million registered vehicles in the United States. Total U.S. sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) have increased in recent years, but still represent only about 0.7% of new vehicle sales in 2014 so far, up from 0.6% in 2013 and 0.4% in 2012. California is home to almost half of all of the nation's PEVs, but even in California, only about 5 out of every 1,000 registered vehicles are PEVs.

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Dec 9, 2014

Increased solar and wind electricity generation in California are changing net load shapes

graph of CAISO load, net load, and wind and solar output on example weekdays during 2014, as explained in the article text
Source: California Independent System Operator (CAISO), Daily Renewables Watch

Republished December 9, 2014, 12:10 p.m. to clarify text, correct graph

As more solar and wind electric generating capacity is added in California, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), the electric grid operator for most of the state, is facing an increasingly different net load shape. Net load—the total electric demand in the system minus wind and solar generation—represents the demand that CAISO must meet with other, dispatchable sources such as natural gas, hydropower, and imported electricity from outside the system.

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Dec 8, 2014

Almost all U.S. nuclear plants require life extension past 60 years to operate beyond 2050

graph of age distribution of existing U.S. nuclear reactors at selected dates, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Note: Graph does not include planned nuclear additions but does include scheduled retirements.

When nuclear power plants are built, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has the authority to issue initial operating licenses for a period of 40 years. Beyond that, the reactors need license renewals, and the NRC has granted 20-year license renewals to 74 of the 100 operating reactors in the United States. These reactors may now operate for a total period of 60 years. They represent a cumulative capacity of a little more than 69,000 megawatts (MW). The NRC is currently reviewing license renewal applications for an additional 17 reactors, and expects to receive seven more applications in the next few years.

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