Electricity

‹ See all Electricity Reports

Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for August 2017  |  Release Date: October 24, 2017  |  Next Release Date: November 27, 2017
Re-release date: October 25, 2017   |   Revision

Previous Issues

Resource Use: August 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

Net generation in the United States decreased by 7.2% compared to August 2016. This year-over-year decrease in electricity generation occurred primarily because the country experienced a much cooler August in 2017 than it did the previous year. This led to a decreased need for residential and commercial customer cooling compared to August 2016 and thus, a decreased need for electricity generation. At the regional-level, all regions of the country, except for Florida, saw a decrease in electricity generation from the previous August.

All regions of the country, except for the West region, saw a decrease in electricity generation from coal compared to the previous year. Except for Florida, all regions of the country saw a decrease in natural gas generation compared to August 2016. The MidAtlantic saw both the largest drop in coal generation (-6,543 gigawatthours) and the largest drop in natural gas generation (-6,938 gigawatthours).

Net generation from nuclear was up 1.2% compared to the previous year. Hydroelectric generation was up in all regions of the country except for Texas and the Central region. The Western region still continued the trend of experiencing an increase in hydroelectric generation (7.2%) compared to the previous year.

Fossil fuel consumption by region





map showing electricity regions

The chart above compares coal consumption in August 2016 and August 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 August 2017, the MidAtlantic, Central, West, and Texas all saw an increase in the share of coal consumption at the expense of natural gas. The Northeast, Southeast, and Florida all saw an increase in the share of natural gas consumption at the expense of coal.

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 slightly from the previous month, going from $3.04/MMBtu in July 2017 to $2.97/MMBtu in August 2017. The natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) also decreased from the previous month, going from $2.53/MMBtu in July 2017 to $2.21/MMBtu in August 2017. The average price of Central Appalachian coal remained relatively flat for a third month in a row, only decreasing from $2.27/MMBtu in July 2017 to $2.26/MMBtu in August 2017.

For the second consecutive month, the New York Harbor residual oil price increased from $8.32/MMBtu in July 2017 to $8.54/MMBtu in August 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 ($23.78/MWh) was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($24.44/MWh) on a $/MWh basis. The price of natural gas at New York City ($17.71/MWh) on a $/MWh basis was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($24.44/MWh), and the spread between the two widened considerably mainly due to the decrease 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.

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