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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for June 2017  |  Release Date: August 24, 2017  |  Next Release Date: September 26, 2017

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Resource Use: June 2017

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



map showing electricity regions

In June 2017, net generation in the United States decreased by 3.4% compared to June 2016. This year-over-year decrease in electricity generation occurred because the country experienced record temperatures last June and only above average temperatures this June. This led to a decreased need for residential cooling compared to June 2016 and thus, a decreased need for electricity generation. At the regional-level, all regions of the country saw a decrease in electricity generation compared to the previous year. The Southeast region had the largest percentage decrease (-6.3%), mainly due to the below average temperatures that were experienced during June 2017.

All regions of the country saw a decrease in electricity generation from both coal and natural gas compared to June 2016. The Southeast saw the largest drop in coal generation (-3,327 terawatthours), while the Central region saw the largest drop in natural gas generation (-4,254 terawatthours).

Net generation from nuclear was relatively flat compared to the previous year, only decreasing by 0.2%. Hydroelectric generation was up in all regions of the country, except for Texas, with the Western region still continuing the trend of experiencing an increase in hydroelectric generation compared to the previous year.

Fossil fuel consumption by region





map showing electricity regions

The chart above compares coal consumption in June 2016 and June 2017 by region and the second tab compares natural gas consumption by region over the same period. Changes in coal and natural gas consumption closely mirrored their respective changes in coal and natural gas generation.

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 June 2017, the Central, West, and Texas all saw an increase in the share of coal consumption at the expense of natural gas. The Northeast, MidAtlantic, and Southeast all saw an increase in the share of natural gas consumption at the expense of coal, while Florida shares of coal versus natural gas consumption stayed relatively flat compared to the previous June.

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 decreased from the previous month, going from $3.22/MMBtu in May 2017 to $3.03/MMBtu in June 2017. The natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) also decreased from the previous month, going from $2.87/MMBtu in May 2017 to $2.43/MMBtu in June 2017. Despite these changes in natural gas prices, the average price of Central Appalachian coal remained relatively flat, only going from $2.25/MMBtu in May 2017 to $2.26/MMBtu in June 2017.

The New York Harbor residual oil price decreased for the second consecutive month, going from $8.21/MMBtu in May 2017 to $7.88/MMBtu in June 2017. 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. The price of natural gas at Henry Hub ($24.26/MWh) was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($24.37/MWh) on a $/MWh basis. This was mainly due to the decrease in the price of natural gas at Henry Hub from the previous month. The price of natural gas at New York City ($19.47/MWh) on a $/MWh basis was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($24.37/MWh), mainly due to the large drop 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.

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