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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for February 2017  |  Release Date: April 25, 2017  |  Next Release Date: May 24, 2017

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Highlights: February 2017

  • Wholesale electricity market prices and demand were generally low given extremely mild February weather across most of the country.
  • The natural gas prices at Henry Hub and New York City were below the price of Central Appalachian coal on a $/MWh basis for the first time since November 2016.
  • Net generation in the United States decreased 8.1% from February 2016 due to the extremely mild February temperatures.

Key indicators

  February 2017 % change from February 2016
Total net generation
(thousand MWh)
288,424 -8.1%
Residential retail price
12.82 5.6%
Retail sales
(thousand MWh)
272,996 -6.9%
Heating degree-days 549 -14.9%
Natural gas price, Henry Hub
2.90 45.0%
Natural gas consumption
584,745 -18.4%
Coal consumption
(thousand tons)
48,155 -4.8%
Coal stocks
(thousand tons)
161,985 -13.6%
Nuclear generation
(thousand MWh)
64,053 -2.4%

In 2016, natural gas exceeds coal for the first time in the U.S. electricity generation mix

In 2016, electricity generated from natural gas accounted for the largest share (33.8%) of total U.S. generation, surpassing coal's share (30.4%) for the first time. The changes in generation fuel shares in 2016 reflect longer-term trends in the electricity supply market.

Between 2011 and 2016, coal and natural gas combined accounted for 66% of total U.S. electricity generation. However, the relative shares of output from these two fuels has shifted, with coal's share declining from 42.3% in 2011 to 30.4% in 2016. Over the same period, the natural gas share increased from 24.7% to 33.8%.

Natural gas units generated 1,013,689 gigawatt hours (GWh) in 2011 and 1,380,295 GWh in 2016, which was an all-time high for natural gas generation and a 36% increase from the 2011 level. Coal units generated 1,733,430 GWh in 2011 and 1,240,108 GWh in 2016, a decrease of 28% compared to the 2011 level.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report
Note: Data for 2016 are preliminary.

Changes in the generation fuel mix are generally the result of relative fuel prices and generators' expectations regarding future costs of fuels, emission control, and operation and maintenance (O&M). Recent trends in generating units include retirements of older coal-fired generators and increased investment in natural gas and renewable capacity in response to market conditions and the implementation of recent environmental regulations.

In addition to the shifting generation shares among fossil fuels, the share of generation from non-hydro renewables (wind, biomass, solar and geothermal) in 2016 increased to 8.4%, surpassing the 6.5% share from conventional hydroelectric renewable generation.

Renewable energy sources include conventional hydroelectric power and non-hydroelectric sources (wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar). Hydro power has traditionally been the dominant source of renewable power generation, accounting for 7.8% U.S. electricity generation, and 62.2% of all renewable generation in 2011. Non-hydro renewable sources provided 5.4% of U.S. electricity generation in 2011. Over the past five years, hydro power generation has fallen to 6.5% of U.S. electricity generation, while non-hydro renewables generation increased to 8.4%. Non-hydro generation in 2016 accounted for 56.4% of all renewable generation.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-923, Power Plant Operations Report
Note: Data for 2016 are preliminary.

Generation from non-hydro sources, particularly wind and solar, has expanded as capital costs and incremental costs of generation have declined over time. In addition, policies such as the Federal Production Tax Credit (PTC), the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), and state-level renewable portfolio standards (RPS) which aim to increase generation from renewable sources, have pushed the development of renewables as a whole, and non-hydro renewables in particular.

Non-hydro renewables generated 343,616 GWh in 2016, while conventional hydroelectric generated 265,829 GWh. The largest increases in generation from non-hydro renewables in 2016 were from wind and solar power.

Principal Contributor:

Joy Liu

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