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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for April 2019  |  Release Date: June 25, 2019  |  Next Release Date: July 24, 2019

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Resource Use: April 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 was down 2.2% in April 2019 compared to the previous year. This decrease in electricity generation occurred because the country, as a whole, experienced a much warmer April this year compared to last year. This led to a decrease in the need for residential customer heating for the country during April 2019 compared to the previous April, which decreased the need for electricity generation compared to a year ago. At the regional-level, only Texas saw a year-over-year increase in electricity generation, whereas all other regions of the country saw decreases in generation or electricity generation was relatively flat (the MidAtlantic) compared to April 2018.

Electricity generation from coal decreased in all parts of the country compared to the pervious April. All regions of the country, except for the Southeast and Florida, saw electricity generation from natural gas increase compared to April 2018. Nuclear generation increased 2.4% compared to the previous year, mainly due to several nuclear units being offline for maintenance in April 2018 compared to this year.

Fossil fuel consumption by region





map showing electricity regions

The chart above compares coal consumption in April 2018 and April 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 their shares of natural gas increase 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 from the previous month, going from $3.01/MMBtu in March 2019 to $2.73/MMBtu in April 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 $3.01/MMBtu in March 2019 to $2.43/MMBtu in April 2019. The average price of Central Appalachian coal saw a decrease from the previous month, going from $3.54/MMBtu in March 2019 to $3.39/MMBtu in April 2019.

For the fourth consecutive month, the New York Harbor residual oil price saw an increase from the previous month, going from $12.47/MMBtu in March 2019 to $12.77/MMBtu in April 2019. As is the case most months, oil used as a fuel for electricity generation was largely priced out of the market during April 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 ($21.88/MWh) was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($36.61/MWh) on a $/MWh basis, with the spread between the two increasing slightly from the previous month, mainly due to the drop in the Henry Hub natural gas price. The price of natural gas at New York City ($19.49/MWh) was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($36.61/MWh) during April 2019, with the spread between the two prices increasing due to the drop 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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Resource Use

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