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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for February 2018  |  Release Date: April 24, 2018  |  Next Release Date: May 24, 2018

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Resource Use: February 2018

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 increased 5.6% compared to February 2017. This large year-over-year increase in electricity generation occurred because the country experienced one of the warmest February’s on record the previous year, whereas this February, temperatures as a whole were only slightly above average. Thus, there was a greater need for residential customer heating during February 2018 compared to the previous year, which increased the need for electricity generation compared to a year ago. At the regional-level, all regions of the country saw an increase in electricity generation compared to the previous February.

All regions of the country, except for the Central region, saw a decrease in electricity generation from coal compared to February 2017. The West saw the largest decrease in electricity from coal, down 2,200 GWh compared to the previous year. All regions of the country, except for the Northeast, saw an increase in electricity generation from natural gas compared to the previous February. Texas saw the largest increase in natural gas generation, up 4,061 GWh compared to the previous year.

Nuclear generation increased 1.9% compared to February 2017. This increase occurred because the James A Fitzpatrick and River Bend nuclear power plants were offline in February 2017, but operated at full capacity this February. Conventional hydroelectric generation was up in all regions of the country. However the West, where there is a high concentration of hydroelectric generators, only saw a 0.5% increase (up 84 GWh) compared to the previous year.

Fossil fuel consumption by region





map showing electricity regions

The chart above compares coal consumption in February 2017 and February 2018 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 February 2018, all regions of the country saw an increase in the share of natural gas 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 $3.86/MMBtu in January 2018 to $2.76/MMBtu in February 2018. The natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) decreased significantly from the previous month, going from $13.34/MMBtu in January 2018 to $3.26/MMBtu in February 2018. This drop in the New York City natural gas price occurred because the region experienced an extended cold snap in January, whereas temperatures in the region during February were much warmer. The average price of Central Appalachian coal saw an increase from the previous month, going from $2.54/MMBtu in January 2018 to $2.61/MMBtu in February 2018.

The New York Harbor residual oil price saw a decrease from the previous month, going from $11.36/MMBtu in January 2018 to $10.83/MMBtu in February 2018. Unlike the previous month, oil used as a fuel for electricity generation went back to being 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 ($22.08/MWh) was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($28.20/MWh) on a $/MWh basis. The spread between the two increased due to the decrease in the price of Henry Hub from the previous month. The price of natural gas at New York City ($26.08/MWh) was below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($28.20/MWh) during February 2018, due to the large drop in the natural gas price at New York City that occurred during the 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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