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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for October 2019  |  Release Date: Dec. 23, 2019  |  Next Release Date: Jan. 27, 2020

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Resource Use: October 2019

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

Net electricity generation in the United States decreased by 0.9% in October 2019 compared to the previous year. At the regional-level, the change in electricity generation compared to October 2018 was mixed, with the Northeast, MidAtlantic, Central, and Southeast all seeing a year-over-year decrease in electricity generation, while the West, Florida, and Texas all saw an increase in electricity generation.

Electricity generation from coal decreased in all parts of the country, except for the Northeast, compared to the previous year. All regions of the country, except for the Northeast, saw an increase in natural gas generation compared to October 2018. Nuclear generation as a whole increased by 4.4%, compared to the previous year, while other renewables electricity generation increased in every region, except for the Northeast, compared to the previous October. Wind and solar were the predominant energy sources that drove this overall increase in other renewables electricity generation compared to a year ago.

Fossil fuel consumption by region





map showing electricity regions

The chart above compares coal consumption in October 2018 and October 2019 by region and the second tab compares natural gas consumption by region over the same period. Changes in coal and natural gas consumption were similar to 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. All regions of the country, except for the Northeast, saw their shares of natural gas increase at the expense of coal. The Northeast saw a very slight increase in other fossil fuels consumption, which caused a slight decrease in the relative market share of natural gas.

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 $2.63/MMBtu in September 2019 to $2.38/MMBtu in October 2019. For the third consecutive month, the natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) decreased compared to the previous month, going from $1.81/MMBtu in September 2019 to $1.60/MMBtu in October 2019. The average price of Central Appalachian coal increased compared to the previous month, going from $2.69/MMBtu in September 2019 to $2.80/MMBtu in October 2019.

For the second consecutive month, the New York Harbor residual oil price saw an increase from the previous month, going from $12.18/MMBtu in September 2019 to $12.96/MMBtu in October 2019. As is the case most months, oil is used primarily for peaking operations and is largely priced out of the market for baseload operations.

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 ($19.06/MWh) was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($30.23/MWh) on a $/MWh basis, with the spread between the two increasing compared to the previous month. The price of natural gas at New York City ($12.83/MWh) was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($30.23/MWh) during October 2019, with the spread between the two prices increasing, mainly due to the decrease in the New York City natural gas price compared to the previous month.

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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