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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for February 2022 Release Date: April 25, 2022 Next Release Date: May 24, 2022

Highlights: February 2022

  • A new 52-week record high for wholesale electricity prices was recorded in the Midwest (Chicago Citygates), Louisiana (Henry Hub), Texas (Houston Ship Channel), and the Southwest (El Paso San Juan).

  • Bonneville Power Administration set a 52-week record high for a peak daily electricity demand of 10,458 megawatts on February 23.

  • The natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) decreased significantly from the previous month from $13.02 million British thermal units (MMBtu) in January 2022 to $6.74/MMBtu in February 2022.

Key indicators

Beneficial use of coal combustion byproducts exceeds material disposed in 2020

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report.
Note: Combustion byproducts are from plants with at least 100 megawatts of nameplate steam electric generating capacity.

As coal consumption has declined in the electric power sector, so has the production of solid byproducts that are left after coal (and other fuels such as petroleum coke, residual fuel oil, and wood or wood waste) is burned to produce electricity. These combustion byproducts (CBPs), such as fly ash, bottom ash from boilers, and gypsum from flue gas desulfurization (FGD) systems (used for controlling sulfur dioxide emissions) are either disposed of, used by the utility, sold for other utilities to use, or stored for later use or sale.

As total production of CBPs has declined, the disposition has shifted away from disposal (which is costly) to beneficial uses, such as the manufacture of products like concrete and wallboard. Since 2015, the percentage split between disposal and beneficial use (57% and 40%, respectively) has trended toward a larger share of CBP for beneficial use. In 2020, beneficial use accounted for 49% of CBP disposition, exceeding disposal at 47%, the first time since we began collecting CBP data in 2008. As total CBP production has gone down, a base demand of 40 million tons to 55 million tons of CBP for beneficial use still remains, which has helped increased the share of beneficial use in CBP disposition. Fly ash and bottom ash (from boilers) are mostly used in concrete and applied in structural fills, while FGD wastes are used to produce gypsum wallboard.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report.
Note: Combustion byproducts are from plants with at least 100 megawatts of nameplate steam electric generating capacity. FGD refers to flue gas desulfurization systems.

Between 2015 and 2020, the production of CBPs fell by 36%, from 119 million tons to 76 million tons. This decline coincided with a 41% reduction in coal consumption during the same five-year period. All CBP components declined including fly ash (-38%), gypsum from FGD systems (-33%), and bottom ash (-43%).

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report.
Note: O&M costs for combustion byproducts are from plants with at least 100 megawatts of nameplate steam electric generating capacity.

EIA also collects data on CBP operations and maintenance (O&M) cost and revenues derived from the sales of CBP for beneficial use. CBP O&M costs have trended down from $2.8 billion in 2015 to $2 billion in 2020. The main component of CBP O&M costs is CBP collection, ranging from 71% to 75% of total CBP O&M costs between 2015 and 2020. Disposal O&M costs have ranged from 17% to 19% of total CBP O&M costs over the last five years.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report.
Note: Combustion byproducts revenues are from plants with at least 100 megawatts of nameplate steam electric generating capacity. FGD refers to flue gas desulfurization systems.

The sale of CBP for beneficial use provides generators a revenue source that serves as a partial cost offset to CBP O&M costs. Between 2015 and 2020, revenues from the sale of CBPs have ranged from $330 million in 2016 to $393 million in 2019. In 2020, total revenues were $382 million: $206 million from the sale of fly ash and the rest from FGD byproducts ($55 million), intermingled fly ash and bottom ash ($19 million), bottom ash ($12 million), and other byproducts ($91 million).