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Delaware   Delaware Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

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(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: September 17, 2020

Overview

Delaware is located on the eastern side of the Delmarva Peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay to the east, Maryland to the west and south, and Pennsylvania and New Jersey to the north.1 At only about 100 miles in length and 30 miles in width, it is the second-smallest state in the nation.2 Most of Delaware’s population of nearly 1 million people is concentrated in the northern part of the state near its borders with densely populated New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania.3,4 Delaware is largely flat coastal plain. Only the extreme northern portion of the state, on the west side of the Delaware River, has hills. Delaware has no fossil fuel reserves, but it does have renewable resources. Solar, wind, and biomass technologies are used for electricity generation at several locations in the state.5,6,7

Delaware consumes almost 100 times more energy than it produces.

Delaware has the smallest total energy production of any state in the nation and consumes almost 100 times more energy than it produces.8 The state’s total energy consumption is the third-lowest in the nation, after Rhode Island and Vermont. The state’s per capita energy consumption is slightly below the national average due, in part, to its relatively mild ocean-moderated climate and focus on financial services as the state’s major industry.9,10,11,12 Delaware is home to energy-intensive chemical, food-processing, and petroleum-refining industries, but financial services—including insurance, real estate, and serving as the legal headquarters for major corporations—contribute more to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) than any other industry.13,14,15 The state’s major agricultural activity is poultry farming, which accounts for about three-fourths of the state’s farm income.16,17 The industrial sector, which includes agriculture, is the largest energy-consuming sector in Delaware, accounting for about three-tenths of the state’s total energy use. The transportation and residential sectors each account for about one-fourth of the state’s energy consumption, followed by the commercial sector at about one-fifth of energy use.18

Petroleum

Delaware does not have any crude oil reserves or production.19 The Port of Wilmington—which is the world's largest port for handling bananas and the leading U.S. entry point for fresh fruit and produce—also has a bulk petroleum terminal and storage depot that handles heating oil, diesel fuel, and many other petroleum products that are shipped into Delaware. Crude oil from around the world arrives at the port as well.20,21,22 The small Port of Delaware City, nine nautical miles downriver from Wilmington, receives crude oil that is delivered to the state’s only oil refinery.23,24

The Delaware City refinery can process about 182,000 barrels of crude oil per calendar day into motor gasoline, home heating oil, and other petroleum products.25,26,27 The refinery relies on crude oil supplies delivered via the Delaware River and by rail, and it is connected to a distribution network that includes pipelines, barges, tankers, trucks, and railroads.28

About 2 in 10 Delaware households heat with fuel oil or propane.

Petroleum is the largest energy source consumed in Delaware, accounting for almost two-fifths of the state’s total energy use.29 Delaware’s petroleum consumption on a per capita basis is close to the U.S. average.30 About two-thirds of the petroleum used in Delaware is consumed by the transportation sector, and slightly more than half the petroleum used in the state is motor gasoline.31,32 The use of reformulated motor gasoline blended with ethanol to limit smog and toxic pollutant formation is required throughout Delaware.33 About 6% of the state’s petroleum consumption occurs in the state’s residential sector, where about 2 in 10 households use fuel oil or propane as their primary energy source for home heating.34,35

Natural gas

Delaware has no natural gas reserves or production.36,37 Exploratory drilling in the 1970s and 1980s off the state’s Atlantic Coast found no commercial natural gas or crude oil resources but did discover one noncommercial natural gas deposit.38 Natural gas supplies enter Delaware by interstate pipeline from Pennsylvania. A little less than one-tenth of the natural gas that enters the state is sent on to Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Delmarva Peninsula area east of the Chesapeake Bay adjoining Delaware.39,40

In 2019, the industrial sector surpassed the electric power sector for the first time since 2010 as the state’s largest natural gas-consuming sector. The industrial sector, which includes petroleum refining and chemical manufacturing, made up about two-fifths of the state’s natural gas consumption in 2019. The electric power sector accounted for about three-tenths, and the commercial sector accounted for nearly one-fifth. Residential sector natural gas consumption has steadily increased since 2015, and accounted for about one-eighth of state use in 2019.41 More than 4 in 10 Delaware households rely on natural gas for home heating.42

Electricity

Natural gas fuels almost 90% of Delaware’s in-state electricity net generation.

The contribution of natural gas-fired electricity generation in Delaware has increased dramatically in the past decade, rising from less than 30% of the state’s net generation in 2009 to almost 90% of generation in 2019.43 Seven of the 10 largest power plants in the state measured by capacity and 8 of the 10 largest plants by actual electricity generation are natural gas-fired.44 Coal supplied 59% of Delaware’s net generation in 2009, but a decade later provided about 4%, all of which is from the one remaining coal-fired power plant in the state. The rest of the state’s utility-scale (1 megawatt or larger) electricity generation is fueled by small amounts of other manufactured gases, renewable sources, and petroleum liquids.45,46 Delaware does not have any nuclear power plants.47 In-state generation typically supplies between two-thirds and three-fourths of the electricity sold to Delaware customers, and the rest comes from other nearby power suppliers via the region’s electric grid in the PJM Interconnection—a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in Delaware and a dozen other states.48,49 About one-third of Delaware’s households rely on electricity for home heating.50

Renewable energy

Solar energy and biomass are the primary resources used to generate renewable electricity in Delaware, contributing 2% of the state’s net generation in 2019 from utility-scale facilities.51 Solar photovoltaic (PV) generation occurs at about a dozen utility-scale facilities in the state, the largest of which has a net summer generating capacity of nearly 12 megawatts. However, small-scale, customer-sited solar generation systems (less than 1 megawatt), like rooftop solar panels, provided more than twice as much electricity as utility-scale solar facilities in 2019.52,53 There are three landfill gas-fueled utility-scale electricity generating plants in Delaware. Those plants have a combined net generating capacity of about 12 megawatts.54 A 5-megawatt project that will capture methane from chicken manure has been proposed for a site in the southern part of the state.55,56,57 A few Delaware households use renewable resources directly for home heating—about 1% rely on wood for heat and about 0.2% use solar energy for heating.58

Delaware has few wind resources onshore and only moderate amounts along the state’s shoreline.59 The first and only onshore utility-scale wind facility currently operating in the state is a 2-megawatt wind turbine that was installed in 2010 at the University of Delaware campus located in the coastal town of Lewes.60,61,62 Delaware has significant wind energy resources farther offshore, and one wind project is being developed in federal waters about 19 miles from the southern Delaware coast. The Skipjack wind farm will have 120 megawatts of generating capacity and is scheduled to be operational at the end of 2023. Although that wind farm will be located in the federal government’s designated Delaware wind energy offshore lease area, the electricity that will be generated from the project is contracted for delivery to customers in Maryland.63,64,65

Rapids and waterfalls are common in the narrow zone that separates Delaware’s hills from its coastal plain, and early settlers used the energy generated from the falls in the northern part of the state to run mills. However, Delaware has no utility-scale hydroelectric generation.66,67

Delaware power suppliers must have 25% of the electricity they sell generated by renewable sources by 2025.

Originally enacted in 2005, Delaware’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) has been revised and expanded. The RPS requires retail electricity suppliers in Delaware to obtain increasing amounts of the electricity they sell in-state each year to be generated from renewable sources, with a goal of having 25% of power sales come from renewables by 2025. A portion of each year’s required renewable electricity sales must come from solar PV sources, reaching 3.5% of the electricity sold by 2025. Other qualifying renewable energy technologies include solar thermal, wind, ocean tidal, ocean thermal, fuel cells powered by renewable fuels, hydroelectric facilities with a maximum capacity of 30 megawatts, sustainable biomass, anaerobic digestion, and landfill gas.68 To meet the RPS’ 25% goal by 2025, Delaware’s retail electricity suppliers will need to acquire renewably sourced power from the PJM interconnection. However, in-state generating sites are expected to be able to meet the 3.5% solar goal.69,70 In 2019, 2.5% of the state’s net generation came from both small- and large-scale solar powered facilities.71

Coal

Delaware does not have any coal reserves or coal production, and almost all the coal consumed in the state is used by the state’s one remaining coal-fired power plant—the 410-megawatt (summer capacity) Indian River Generating Station.72,73,74 Most of the coal consumed in Delaware arrives by rail from Pennsylvania.75 A very small number of state households use coal for heating.76

Endnotes

1 World Atlas, Delaware, accessed August 3, 2020.
2 State of Delaware Information Center, Delaware Geography, accessed August 3, 2020.
3 U.S. Census Bureau, QuickFacts, Delaware, accessed August 3, 2020.
4 U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census: Delaware Profile, accessed August 3, 2020.
5 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Delaware Profile Data, Reserves, accessed August 3, 2020.
6 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend: Biomass Power Plant, Solar Power Plant, and Wind Power Plant, accessed August 3, 2020.
7 Delaware Solid Waste Authority, Landfill Gas Recovery, accessed August 3, 2020.
8 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table P3, Energy Production and Consumption Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2018.
9 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F33, Total Energy Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2018.
10 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C14, Total Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2018.
11 Brinson, Kevin, “A First Look at the Climate of the First State,” Delaware’s Climate, The CoCoRaHS ‘State Climates’ Series, accessed August 3, 2020.
12 NETSTATE, Delaware, Delaware Economy, Services, updated December 19, 2017.
13 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Interactive Data, GDP and Personal Income, Regional Data, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in current dollars, Delaware, All statistics in table, 2018.
14 NETSTATE, Delaware, Delaware Economy, updated December 19, 2017.
15 Delaware Division of Corporations, About the Division of Corporations, accessed August 24, 2020.
16 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Delaware, Top Commodities, Exports and Counties, updated February 5, 2020.
17 NETSTATE, Delaware, Delaware Economy, Agriculture, updated December 19, 2017.
18 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F33, Total Energy Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2018.
19 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, Estimated Production and Proved Reserves as of 12/31, 2013–18.
20 World Port Source, The Port of Wilmington, Port Commerce, accessed August 3, 2020.
21 U.S. EIA, Petroleum and Other Liquids, Company Level Imports, June 2020.
22 U.S. EIA, Crude Imports, Imports of all grades to Delaware 2019, 2016–19.
23 World Port Source, Port of Delaware City, Review and History, accessed August 3, 2020.
24 World Port Source, Port of Delaware City, Port Commerce, accessed August 3, 2020.
25 PBF Energy, Refineries, accessed August 3, 2020.
26 U.S. EIA, Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries, Delaware, Annual, 2020.
27 Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances, Delaware City Refining Company, LLC, accessed August 3, 2020.
28 PBF Energy, Refineries, Delaware City, Delaware, accessed August 3, 2020.
29 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C1, Energy Consumption Overview: Estimates by Energy Source and End-Use Sector, 2018.
30 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C15, Petroleum Consumption Total and per Capita, Ranked by State, 2018.
31 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F16, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2018.
32 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C3, Primary Energy Consumption Estimates, 2018.
33 Larson, B. K., U.S. Gasoline Requirements, ExxonMobil (January 2018).
34 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F16, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2018.
35 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2018 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Delaware.
36 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Reserves Summary as of Dec. 31, Dry Natural Gas, Annual, 2013–18.
37 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Marketed Production, Annual, 2014–19.
38 The Delaware Geological Survey, A Summary of the Geologic History of Delaware, Atlantic Coastal Plain, accessed August 3, 2020.
39 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend: Natural Gas Inter/Intrastate Pipeline, accessed August 3, 2020.
40 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Delaware, 2013–19.
41 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Delaware, 2014–19.
42 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2018 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Delaware.
43 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Annual, Delaware, 2001–19.
44 U.S. EIA, Delaware Electricity Profile 2018, Tables 2A, 2B.
45 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Annual, Delaware, 2001–19.
46 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Operating Generators as of June 2020, Delaware, Technology: Conventional Steam Coal.
47 U.S. EIA, Nuclear and Uranium, Nuclear Reactor, State, and Net Capacity (December 2019).
48 PJM, About PJM, Who We Are, accessed August 4, 2020.
49 U.S. EIA, Delaware Electricity Profile 2018, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2018.
50 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2018 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Delaware.
51 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Annual, Delaware, 2001–19.
52 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Operating Generators as of June 2020, Delaware, Technology: Solar Photovoltaic.
53 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Annual, Delaware, 2001–19.
54 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Operating Generators as of June 2020, Delaware, Technology: Landfill Gas.
55 Plant that turns chicken poop into energy comes to Georgetown, WBOC (August 13, 2018).
56 MacArthur, Ron, “Height variance will allow 75-foot chicken litter recycling plant,” Cape Gazette (May 29, 2019).
57 Maryland Department of Agriculture, CleanBay Renewables, accessed August 22, 2020.
58 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2018 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Delaware.
59 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Wind Energy in Delaware, Maps & Data, accessed August 5, 2020.
60 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Operating Generators as of June 2020, Delaware, Technology: Onshore Wind Turbine.
61 American Wind Energy Association, State Fact Sheets, Delaware, accessed August 5, 2020.
62 University of Delaware, UD’s Wind Turbine, accessed August 5, 2020.
63 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Wind Energy in Delaware, Maps & Data, accessed August 5, 2020.
64 Orsted, Skipjack Wind Farm, accessed August 5, 2020.
65 Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Offshore Wind Working Group Report to the Governor (June 29, 2018), p. 6–8.
66 The Delaware Geological Survey, A Summary of the Geologic History of Delaware, accessed August 6, 2020.
67 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Annual, Delaware, 2001–19.
68 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Delaware Renewables Portfolio Standard, updated July 3, 2018.
69 Hurdle, Jon, “Delaware presses ahead with renewables, energy-efficiency,” Delaware Business Times (March 15, 2018).
70 Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Climate, Coastal, & Energy, Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, accessed August 6, 2020.
71 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Annual, Delaware, 2001–19.
72 U.S. 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.
73 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2018 (October 3, 2019), Table 6, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Coal Rank, 2018.
74 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory (based on Form EIA-860M as a supplement to Form EIA-860), Inventory of Operating Generators as of June 2020, Delaware, Technology: Conventional Steam Coal.
75 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, Delaware, Table DS-7, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2018.
76 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2018 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Delaware.