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Alabama   Alabama Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint State Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: July 16, 2020

Overview

Alabama’s timberland acreage—the third largest among the Lower 48 states—gives it ample biomass energy resources.

Alabama is rich in energy resources, with sizable deposits of coal, as well as some crude oil, natural gas, and coalbed methane reserves.1,2,3 Located along the Gulf of Mexico, southern Alabama consists of a coastal plain with a humid, subtropical climate. The state’s north includes the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains, where below-zero temperatures occur every few years and measurable snow is common.4,5 Alabama’s many rivers flow from the Appalachian highlands toward the Gulf of Mexico, and several dams along those rivers provide hydroelectric power.6,7,8 Forests cover more than two-thirds of Alabama, and the state has the third-largest total timberland acreage among the Lower 48 states, after Georgia and Oregon, giving the state ample biomass resources.9,10

Alabama ranks among the top 15 states in energy consumption per capita, mainly because of high energy demand from the state’s industrial sector, which accounts for more than two-fifths of the state’s total energy consumption. Alabama ranks among the 10 states with the highest industrial sector energy use.11,12 The manufacture of automobiles and other transportation equipment, chemicals, paper and wood products, as well as mining and energy extraction, agriculture, and forestry, are major contributors to Alabama’s economy. Alabama ranks among the top five states in the manufacture of cars and light trucks and produced about 1 million vehicles in 2019.13,14,15 The transportation sector accounts for about one-fourth of the state’s total energy consumption. Despite high energy use for cooling during the state’s hot, humid summers and the widespread use of electricity for home heating in the winter, the residential sector makes up less than one-fifth of energy use and the commercial sector accounts for about one-eighth of Alabama’s energy consumption.16,17,18

Electricity

The Browns Ferry power plant has the second-largest nuclear power generating capacity in the nation.

Alabama ranks sixth among the states in electricity net generation and is the nation’s fifth-largest generator of electricity from nuclear power.19,20 Alabama’s two nuclear power plants, with a total of five reactors, produced 31% of the electricity generated in the state in 2019. The three reactors at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in north Alabama have the second-largest combined generating capacity among U.S. nuclear power plants, after Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant.21,22

Natural gas has fueled the largest share of electricity in Alabama since 2014 and has almost doubled since 2009 to 40% of the state’s net generation in 2019.23 Coal had historically fueled the largest share of electric power generation in the state, but aging coal-fired generating plants have been shut down, with about 3,600 megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity retiring from 2015 through 2019.24,25 Since 2009, coal-fired power plants’ contribution to Alabama’s net generation has been cut in half to 19% in 2019.26

Alabama is the second-largest hydroelectric power producer east of the Rocky Mountains, after New York.27 Nineteen hydroelectric dams on Alabama’s rivers provided almost 8% of the state’s net generation.28,29 Alabama also ranks among the top five states for electricity generation from biomass—about 2% of the state’s total generation—and almost all of it is from burning wood and wood-derived fuels from the state’s substantial forest products industry.30,31

Alabama’s electricity production exceeds its consumption, and about one-third of the electricity generated is delivered to neighboring states over high-voltage interstate transmission lines.32,33 Alabama’s residential sector and industrial sector each account for almost two-fifths of the electricity sold in the state.34 Electricity consumption per capita in Alabama’s residential sector is the third-highest in the nation, due in part to the high demand for air conditioning in the hot summers and the widespread use of electricity for home heating in the winter.35,36 Almost 7 out of 10 Alabama households heat with electricity.37

Coal

Mobile is the third-largest seaport for U.S. coal exports and first in volume of coal imports.

Coal has been mined commercially in Alabama since the 1850s and supported development of the iron and steel industry in the state.38 Alabama holds about 1% of U.S. economically recoverable coal reserves. In 2018 the state ranked 10th in total coal production and 6th in bituminous coal production—which is the most abundant type of coal found in the United States and is used to generate electricity and to make steel.39,40 More than 80% of the coal produced in Alabama comes from seven underground mines.41 About three-fourths of the coal produced in the state is exported to other countries.42 During 2019, the Mobile seaport ranked third in the nation for shipping U.S. coal exports and first in handling coal imports.43 Almost one-fifth of the coal mined in Alabama is delivered by barge, railroad, and truck to electric power plants, coking plants, and other industrial facilities in the state. Minor amounts of Alabama coal also are delivered to coking plants and other industrial plants in other states, primarily Indiana and Ohio.44,45

Only about one-fifth of the coal used in Alabama is mined in the state. Wyoming supplies around three-fifths of the U.S. coal consumed in Alabama, and Illinois provides nearly one-tenth. All of the coal from those two states is delivered to electric power plants, which are the largest coal consumers in Alabama. The remaining one-tenth of domestic coal consumed in Alabama arrives by railroad, river barge, and truck from about half a dozen other states.46

Petroleum

Alabama’s economically recoverable crude oil reserves are small—only about 0.1% of the U.S. total.47 Oil was discovered in Alabama in the mid-1940s a few miles from the border with Mississippi.48 Today, a small amount of crude oil is produced from fields in the northwestern and southwestern parts of the state.49,50 The state’s annual crude oil production increased slightly from 2011 through 2013, but output has declined annually since then. Production in 2019 fell below 5 million barrels for the first time in more than four decades, and is less than one-fourth of the state’s peak oil production of nearly 22 million barrels in the mid-1980s.51

Alabama’s three oil refineries can process about 142,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Alabama has three petroleum refineries with a combined processing capacity of about 142,000 barrels of crude oil per calendar day. The state’s largest refinery is located near Mobile, the second-largest refinery is in Tuscaloosa on the Black Warrior River, and the third and smallest refinery is in Atmore.52 The refineries can process a range of domestic and imported crude oils into refined products that include feedstocks for chemical plants, motor gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, residual fuel, and asphalt for local and regional markets.53,54,55 Alabama receives additional refined products from Texas and Louisiana via two major interstate pipelines—the Colonial and Plantation pipelines—that also move gasoline and other petroleum products through Alabama to supply half a dozen other southern and East Coast states.56,57

Most of the petroleum used in Alabama is consumed as transportation fuels, mainly motor gasoline and diesel fuel.58 Conventional gasoline without ethanol can be sold throughout state, even though almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with at least 10% ethanol.59,60 Alabama does not have any ethanol production plants, but the state consumes about 265 million gallons of fuel ethanol per year.61,62 Alabama does have one biodiesel production plant that can manufacture 20 million gallons a year, and it is among the top 10 biodiesel-consuming states.63,64 About 6 out of 100 Alabama households heat with petroleum, mainly propane.65

Natural gas

Alabama produces natural gas both onshore and offshore in state waters, including in Mobile Bay. The state’s proved reserves of natural gas have fallen to about one-fifth of their peak estimate in the early 1990s and now comprise less than 0.3% of U.S. total natural gas reserves.66,67 Alabama’s annual marketed natural gas production also has steadily declined for the past two decades and output is down about three-fourths from its peak in 1996. The state contributes about 0.5% to the nation’s total natural gas production.68,69 Three-fifths of Alabama’s natural gas production comes from onshore wells, and most of that onshore production is in the form of coalbed methane—a natural gas produced from coal seams. The state’s coalbed methane wells are located primarily in the Black Warrior Basin in northwestern Alabama.70,71,72

Alabama’s natural gas production meets about one-fifth of the state’s gas demand.73,74 The state receives additional natural gas by interstate pipelines, mainly from Mississippi, but increasing volumes are shipped south through Tennessee from Pennsylvania and Ohio natural gas fields in the Marcellus and Utica shales. More than four-fifths of the natural gas that enters Alabama continues on through the state, mainly to Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi.75

An increasing amount of the natural gas delivered to Alabama goes to power plants as fuel for electricity generation. Since 2007, the electric power sector has been the largest natural gas-consuming sector in the state and accounted for almost 60% of total natural gas use in 2018. The industrial sector consumed the second-largest amount of natural gas—about 30% of the state’s total.76,77 Although about 3 out of every 10 Alabama households use natural gas for heating, the residential sector typically accounts for only about 5% of the state’s natural gas consumption, primarily because of its mild winters.78,79

Renewable energy

Alabama has a wood pellet manufacturing plant that uses peanut hulls as feedstock.

In 2019, renewable energy sources generated about 10% of Alabama’s in-state electricity. Hydroelectric facilities accounted for nearly three-fourths of the state’s renewable electricity generation. Almost all the rest of Alabama’s utility-scale (1 megawatt or larger) renewable generation came from biomass, most of which is generated by wood and wood-derived fuels at industrial facilities.80,81 Alabama’s biomass resources also provide feedstock for the state’s three commercial wood pellet plants, which have a combined annual production capacity of 432,000 short tons—about 4% of the nation’s total. The smallest plant’s feedstock includes peanut hulls to make wood pellets.82,83

Alabama’s total solar generation is small, but increasing, and in 2019 it accounted for about 3% of the state’s renewable generation.84 The state’s strongest solar resources are located in the southeast corner of Alabama and along the state’s Gulf Coast shoreline.85 Alabama’s first commercial solar farm, with 75 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) generating capacity, began operating in 2016.86 The largest solar power facility in the state is a 79-megawatt solar farm that began operating in late 2017. Alabama’s installed utility-scale solar power generation capacity totaled nearly 200 megawatts at the beginning of 2020.87,88 TVA has announced plans to build what will be the state’s largest solar farm—a 227-megawatt facility in northwest Alabama—to supply power to a large computer data center.89,90 There is currently little customer-sited, small-scale solar generating capacity—found mostly on rooftops—in the state.91,92

Alabama has no utility-scale wind generation, but there are a few areas along its short Gulf coastline and along stretches of the Appalachian mountaintops in the northeastern part of the state that have modest wind resources.93,94

Alabama does not have a renewable portfolio standard or a voluntary renewable energy goal, but does encourage energy savings and efficiency.95,96 The state has an energy building code for commercial and residential buildings and energy conservation measures for state-owned buildings.97,98 TVA and several other electricity providers in the state offer homeowners and businesses financial incentives to save energy or to install renewable energy generation facilities.99

Endnotes

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Annual Coal Report 2018 (October 3, 2019), Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2018.
2 U.S. EIA, Alabama Profile Data, Reserves, Supply & Distribution.
3 U.S. EIA, Coalbed Methane, Proved Reserves as of December 31, 2012–18.
4 University of Alabama, Department of Geography, Physiographic Regions, accessed June 17, 2020.
5 Christy, John, “Alabama’s Climate, It’s the Humidity!” Community Collaborative Rain, Hail & Snow Network, State Climate Series, accessed June 17, 2020.
6 Geology.com, Alabama Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources, accessed June 17, 2020.
7 Alabama Power, Our Lakes and Dams, accessed June 17, 2020.
8 Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA in Alabama, Fiscal Year 2019 (October 2018–September 2019).
9 Hartsell, Andrew, “Alabama’s Forests, 2015,” U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, p. ix.
10 Alabama Forestry Commission, Forest Facts, accessed June 17, 2020.
11 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C14, Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2018.
12 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C11, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2018.
13 Alabama Department of Commerce, Made in Alabama, Industries, Targeted Business Sectors, accessed June 17, 2020.
14 Alabama Department of Commerce, Made in Alabama, Automotive, accessed June 17, 2020.
15 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, Regional Data, GDP and Personal Income, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in current dollars, Alabama, All statistics in table, 2017.
16 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C11, Energy Consumption Estimates by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2018.
17 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2018 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Alabama.
18 U.S. EIA, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2015 RECs Survey Data, Tables HC6.8, Space Heating, and HC7.8, Air Conditioning, East South Central census division (February 2017).
19 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2020), Table 1.3.B.
20 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2020), Table 1.9.B.
21 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001–19.
22 U.S. EIA, Nuclear Reactor, State, and Net Capacity (December 2019).
23 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001–19.
24 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001–19.
25 U.S. EIA, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Retired Generators as of March 2020, Alabama, Technology: Conventional Steam Coal.
26 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001–19.
27 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2020), Table 1.10.B.
28 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001–19.
29 AL.com, Hydroelectric Power Plants in Alabama, accessed June 18, 2020.
30 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2020), Table 1.15.B.
31 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2001–19.
32 U.S. EIA, State Electricity Profiles, Alabama Electricity Profile 2018, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2018.
33 U.S. EIA, Alabama Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend: Electric Transmission Lines, accessed June 18, 2020.
34 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Retail sales of electricity (million kilowatthours), annual, Alabama, 2001–19.
35 U.S. EIA, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2015 RECs Survey Data, Tables HC6.8, Space Heating, and HC7.8, Air Conditioning, East South Central census division (February 2017).
36 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C17, Electricity Retail Sales, Total and Residential, Total and per Capita, Ranked by State, 2018.
37 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2018 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Alabama.
38 Mining Artifacts, Alabama Mines, accessed June 18, 2020.
39 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2018 (October 3, 2019), Table 6, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Coal Rank, 2018 and Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2018.
40 U.S. EIA, Energy Explained, Coal explained, Types of coal, Bituminous, accessed June 18, 2020.
41 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2018 (October 3, 2019), Table 2, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State, County, and Mine Type, 2018.
42 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2018 (October 3, 2019), Domestic and foreign distribution of U.S. coal by origin State.
43 U.S. EIA, Quarterly Coal Report, 4th Quarter 2019 (April 1, 2020), Table 13, U.S. Coal Exports by Customs District and Table 20, Coal Imports by Customs District.
44 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2018 (October 3, 2019), Table 2, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State, County, and Mine Type, 2018.
45 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2018 (October 3, 2019), Domestic Distribution of U.S. coal by origin State, consumer, destination and method of transportation, Table OS-1, Alabama, 2018.
46 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2018 (October 3, 2019), Domestic Distribution of U.S. coal by destination State, consumer, destination and method of transportation, Table DS-1, Alabama, 2018.
47 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, 2013–18.
48 Hall, Douglas R., and David E. Bolin, The Petroleum Industry in Alabama, 1999–2007, Oil and Gas Report 3U, Geological Survey of Alabama (2009), p. 1, 2.
49 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, Annual Thousand Barrels, 2014–19.
50 U.S. EIA, Alabama Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend, Oil Wells: High-Level View, Tight Oil/Shale Gas Play, accessed June 19, 2020.
51 U.S. EIA, Alabama Field Production of Crude Oil (Thousand Barrels), Annual, 1981–2019.
52 U.S. EIA, Refinery Capacity Report 2019 (June 21, 2019), Table 3, Capacity of Operable Petroleum Refineries by State as of January 1, 2019.
53 Shell, Mobile, AL, accessed June 19, 2020.
54 Goodway Refining, LLC, accessed June 19, 2020.
55 Hunt Refining Company, Refining Operations, Tuscaloosa Refinery, accessed June 19, 2020.
56 Colonial Pipeline Company, System Map, accessed June 19, 2020.
57 Kinder Morgan, Plantation Pipe Line Company (PPL), accessed June 19, 2020.
58 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C2, Energy Consumption Estimates for Selected Energy Sources in Physical Units, 2018.
59 American Petroleum Institute, U.S. Gasoline Requirements, updated January 2018.
60 U.S. EIA, “Almost all U.S. gasoline is blended with 10% ethanol,” Today in Energy (May 4, 2016).
61 U.S. EIA, U.S. Fuel Ethanol Plant Production Capacity (August 26, 2019), Detailed nameplate capacity of fuel ethanol plants by Petroleum Administration for Defense District (PADD District) are available in XLS file.
62 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F25, Fuel ethanol consumption estimates, 2018.
63 U.S. EIA, Monthly Biodiesel Production Report (May 29, 2020), Table 4, Biodiesel producers and production capacity by state.
64 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F26, Biodiesel Consumption Estimates, 2018.
65 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2018 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Alabama.
66 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 2014–19.
67 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Reserves Summary as of Dec. 31, Wet NG, 2013–18.
68 U.S. EIA, Alabama Natural Gas Marketed Production, 1967–2018.
69 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Marketed Production, Annual, 2014–19.
70 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Marketed Production, Annual, 2014–19.
71 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals from Coalbed Wells, Annual-Million cubic feet, 2013–18.
72 Geological Survey of Alabama, Water Management Strategies for Improved Coalbed Methane Production in the Black Warrior Basin (January 30, 2014), p. 6–9.
73 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Marketed Production, Annual, 2014–19.
74 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Alabama, Annual, 2014–19.
75 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Alabama, Annual, 2013–18.
76 U.S. EIA, Alabama Natural Gas Deliveries to Electric Power Customers, 1997–2019.
77 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Alabama, Annual, 2014–19.
78 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2018 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Alabama.
79 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Alabama, Annual, 2014–19.
80 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2016–19.
81 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2019), Table 1.15.B.
82 U.S. EIA, Monthly Densified Biomass Fuel Report (June 17, 2020), Table 1, Densified biomass fuel manufacturing facilities in the United States by state, region, and capacity, March 2020.
83 Golden Peanut Co.—Headland, Biomass Magazine, accessed June 20, 2020.
84 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2016–19.
85 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Global Horizontal Solar Irradiance, accessed June 20, 2020.
86 Smith, Tom, “River Bend Solar Energy Center operational, selling solar power,” Times Daily (November 20, 2016).
87 Pillion, Dennis, “Alabama's largest solar farm unveiled in Chambers County,” AL.com (March 16, 2018).
88 U.S. EIA, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Retired Generators as of March 2020, Alabama, Technology: Solar Photovoltaic.
89 Gattis, Paul, “Alabama’s largest solar farm to power Facebook in Huntsville,” AL.com (November 2, 2018).
90 U.S. EIA, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Retired Generators as of March 2020, Alabama, Technology: Solar Photovoltaic.
91 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2016–19.
92 Solar Energy Industries Association, Alabama Solar, accessed June 20, 2020.
93 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Wind Energy in Alabama, Maps & Data, accessed June 20, 2020.
94 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net generation for all sectors, annual, Alabama, 2016–19.
95 National Council of State Legislatures, State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, updated April 17, 2020.
96 Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alabama Energy and Residential Codes, accessed June 20, 2020.
97 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Alabama Energy Code, updated May 29, 2020.
98 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Energy Standards for State Agencies, updated May 9, 2016.
99 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, TVA Green Power Providers, updated May 27, 2020.