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Annual Energy Outlook 2019

Release date: January 24, 2019   |  Next release date:  January 2020   |  full report

Average Fossil Fuel Heat Rates for Electricity Generation

Release date: January 29, 2019

The fossil fuel heat rate is used as the thermal conversion factor for electricity generation from noncombustible renewable energy (hydro, geothermal, solar thermal, solar photovoltaic, and wind) to estimate the amount of fossil fuels replaced by these renewable sources. EIA uses this data to report the primary energy content of generation from noncombustible renewable energy. EIA does not collect data on the heat or energy input into noncombustible renewable generators because this information is not something that plant operators would typically know, and it has little use in electric power markets.

The displaced fossil fuel energy for each unit (e.g., kilowatthours) of electricity generated from noncombustible renewables varies over time and across cases within the AEO as the composition, operation, and efficiency of the fossil generation fleet changes over time in response to market and policy conditions. The primary energy content of renewables generation reported in EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2019 uses the average fossil fuel heat rates contained in the file on the right.

Reporting conventions for the primary energy content of renewables generation vary across sources, and different approaches may serve different analytic, policy, or statistical needs. Users who need renewable primary energy in terms of final energy consumed should multiply the annual generation (in kWh) for the wind, solar, hydro, or geothermal resource of interest by 3,412 Btu/kWh to obtain an estimate of primary energy consumption for renewables.