U.S. Energy Information Administration logo

Electricity

‹ See all Electricity Reports

Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for January 2019  |  Release Date: March 26, 2019  |  Next Release Date: April 24, 2019

Previous Issues

Resource Use: January 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 generation in the United States decreased by 4.4% compared to January 2018. This decrease in electricity generation occurred because the country, particularly in the more heavily populated eastern-half of the country, experienced a warmer January this year compared to the previous year. This led to a decrease in the need for residential customer heating for the country during January 2019 compared to the previous January, which decreased the need for electricity generation compared to a year ago. At the regional-level, only the Western region didn’t see a year-over-year drop in electricity generation but instead, the amount of electricity generation in the West remained relatively unchanged compared to January 2018.

For the second consecutive month, electricity generation from coal decreased in all parts of the country, except for the West, compared to the previous January. All regions of the country, except for the Southeast, saw electricity generation from natural gas increase compared to the previous January. The Southeast saw a 7.9% drop in electricity generation from natural gas compared to the previous year, mainly due the significantly warmer temperatures experienced in January 2019 compared to a year ago. Nuclear generation decreased 1.3% compared to January 2018, as more nuclear units were offline for maintenance during January 2019 compared to January 2018.

Fossil fuel consumption by region





map showing electricity regions

The chart above compares coal consumption in January 2018 and January 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 saw an increase in the share of natural gas at the expense of coal in January 2019.

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 $4.05/MMBtu in December 2018 to $3.18/MMBtu in January 2019. The natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) increased compared to the previous month, going from $4.22/MMBtu in December 2018 to $6.16/MMBtu in January 2019. For the eighth consecutive month, the average price of Central Appalachian coal saw an increase from the previous month, going from $3.47/MMBtu in December 2018 to $3.52/MMBtu in January 2019.

The New York Harbor residual oil price saw an increase from the previous month, going from $11.22/MMBtu in December 2018 to $11.69/MMBtu in January 2019. Unlike the beginning of last winter where very cold temperatures led to a spike in oil use by electric generators, oil used as a fuel for electricity generation was priced out of the market during January 2019.

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 ($25.47/MWh) was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($38.05/MWh) on a $/MWh basis, with the spread between the two increasing significantly from the previous month, mainly due to the decrease in the Henry Hub natural gas price. The price of natural gas at New York City ($49.30/MWh) was now above the price of Central Appalachian coal ($38.05/MWh) during January 2019. A significant increase in the New York City natural gas price usually occurs during the winter months, due to this region of the country having constrained natural gas delivery in a time of year where demand for natural gas is higher.

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.

Print this issue Download the data (csv)

In this Issue:

Highlights

End Use

Resource Use

Regional Wholesale Markets

Coal Stocks

Data Tables

About Electricity Monthly Update

Electricity Monthly Update Explained

Methodology & Documentation

Contact Information & Staff