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Electricity Monthly Update

With Data for November 2017  |  Release Date: Jan. 24, 2018  |  Next Release Date: Feb. 26, 2018

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Resource Use: November 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 increased by 3.3% in November 2017 compared to the previous year. This year-over-year increase in electricity generation occurred primarily because the country experienced a cooler November in 2017 than it did the previous year. This led to an increased need for residential customer heating compared to November 2016 and thus, an increased need for electricity generation. At the regional-level, all regions of the country, except the Western and MidAtlantic regions, saw an increase in electricity generation from the previous November.

The Southeast, Florida, MidAtlantic, and Northeast all saw a decrease in electricity generation from coal compared to the previous year, while the West, Texas, and Central all saw an increase in coal generation. Texas, Central, MidAtlantic, and Northeast all saw a decrease in electricity generation from natural gas compared to November 2016, with the Central region seeing the largest decrease (1,591 gigawatthours). The West, Southeast, and Florida all saw an increase in natural gas generation, with Florida seeing the largest increase (996 gigawatthours).

Net generation from nuclear was up 2.2% compared to the previous year. Electricity generation from other renewable sources increased in every region, mainly driven by the increase in production from newly-built wind and solar power plants that came online during 2017.

Fossil fuel consumption by region





map showing electricity regions

The chart above compares coal consumption in November 2016 and November 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 November 2017, the West, Texas, and Central saw an increase in the share of coal at the expense of natural gas. Conversely over the same period, the Southeast, Florida, MidAtlantic, and Northeast all 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 increased from the previous month, going from $2.95/MMBtu in October 2017 to $3.07/MMBtu in November 2017. The natural gas price for New York City (Transco Zone 6 NY) also increased from the previous month, going from $2.42/MMBtu in October 2017 to $3.00/MMBtu in November 2017. For the third consecutive month, the average price of Central Appalachian coal saw an increase from the previous month, going from $2.40/MMBtu in October 2017 to $2.54/MMBtu in November 2017.

For the fifth consecutive month, the New York Harbor residual oil price saw an increase from the previous month, going from $9.25/MMBtu in October 2017 to $10.31/MMBtu in November 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 ($24.63/MWh) and New York City ($24.05/MWh) were below the price of Central Appalachian coal ($27.47/MWh) on a $/MWh basis. However, the spread between the New York City natural gas price and the price of Central Appalachian coal narrowed significantly due to the increase in the New York City natural gas price.

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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