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Delaware   Delaware Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

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

Last Updated: July 20, 2017

Overview

Delaware is located on the Delmarva Peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay to the east and Maryland to the west and south.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 fewer than 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. Rapids and waterfalls are common in the narrow zone that separates Delaware's hills from the coastal plain. Early settlers used the energy generated from the falls in northern Delaware to power mills.5 Delaware has no fossil fuel resources, but it does have some renewable resources, including solar and wind. Landfill gas is also being used for electricity generation at several locations.6,7,8

Financial services contribute more to Delaware's gross state product than any other industry.

In part because Delaware has few energy resources, energy consumption in the state is much greater than energy production.9 The state's total energy consumption is among the lowest in the nation because of its small population, its relatively mild ocean-moderated climate, and its focus on financial services as the major industry. However, Delaware has a higher energy use per capita than almost half of the states, in part because of its energy-intensive chemical, food-processing, and petroleum-refining industries.10,11,12,13 Financial services, including insurance and real estate, contribute more to the gross domestic product than any other industry.14 The state's major agricultural activity is poultry farming, and broilers (young chickens) are the largest contributor to the state's farm income.15 The industrial sector, which includes agriculture, is the largest energy-consuming sector in the state.16

Petroleum

Delaware does not have any crude oil reserves or production.17 The Port of Wilmington (the world's largest banana-handling port and the leading U.S. entry point for fresh fruit) has a state-of-the-art bulk petroleum terminal and storage depot that handles heating oil, fuel oil, and many other petroleum products that are shipped into the state. Crude oil from around the world also arrives at the port.18,19 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.20,21

Delaware City is one of only two refineries on the East Coast with coking capacity.

The Delaware City refinery can process about 182,200 barrels of crude oil per calendar day, and it has the ability to handle heavy, high-sulfur (sour) crude oils. The Delaware City refinery is one of only two operating petroleum refineries on the East Coast with coking capacity.22,23 Coking refineries can convert nonvolatile residues into high-value petroleum products.24 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.25

Delaware's petroleum consumption is among the lowest in the nation, but, on a per capita basis, it is greater than about three-fifths of the states.26,27 Almost two-thirds of the petroleum used in Delaware is consumed by the transportation sector, and half of the petroleum used in the state is consumed as motor gasoline.28,29 Reformulated motor gasoline blended with ethanol is used throughout Delaware.30 A limited amount of petroleum is consumed by the state's residential sector, where 1 in 7 households use fuel oil or kerosene as their primary energy source for home heating, and 1 in 10 use liquefied petroleum gas.31,32

Natural gas

Delaware has no natural gas reserves and no natural gas production.33 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.34 Natural gas supplies enter Delaware by interstate natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania. A small amount—less than one-tenth of the natural gas that enters the state—is sent on to Maryland's Eastern Shore.35,36,37

Natural gas use in Delaware has been trending upward since 2009 because of increased consumption by the electric power sector. The industrial sector was the largest natural gas-consuming sector in the state until 2010, when a sharp, temporary decline in industrial use occurred at the same time as electric power consumption began its rapid rise. Although industrial sector use rebounded, the electric power sector has remained the state's largest consumer of natural gas since 2010. The residential sector's share of natural gas consumption has remained relatively constant over the same period.38,39 Two in five Delaware households use natural gas for heating.40

Coal

Delaware does not have any coal resources, and, except for the 0.1% of Delaware households that heat with coal, all of the coal consumed in the state is used by the state's single coal-fired power plant.41,42,43 Coal entering the state arrives by rail. Most of the coal consumed in Delaware comes from Pennsylvania. A small amount of coal comes from West Virginia.44

Electricity

Delaware has cut its carbon emissions from electricity generation by more than 5% since 2009.

Natural gas-fired power plants provide about nine-tenths of the state's net generation, and 7 of the 10 largest power plants in the state are natural gas-fired. Coal, which fuels much of the rest of the in-state generation, had supplied almost three-fifths of the state's net generation as recently as 2009, but it has been displaced by natural gas-fired generation.45 Coal now provides only slightly more than one-twentieth of the state's net generation, and all of that is from the single remaining coal-fired unit in the state.46,47 As a result of the shift to natural gas and the installation of emission control equipment, Delaware cut its carbon emissions by more than 5% between 2009 and 2016.48 An industrial combined-heat-and-power plant operated by the Delaware City Refinery uses other manufactured gases to generate electricity, and, with petroleum and renewable resources, accounts for the rest of the state's net electricity generation.49,50,51 Delaware does not have any nuclear reactors.52 In-state generation supplies about three-fifths of the electricity sold to Delaware customers, and the rest comes from the PJM interconnection, the Mid-Atlantic regional electricity transmission grid. The state is a net recipient of electricity.53,54 About one-third of Delaware's households use electricity for home heating.55

Renewable energy

Solar energy and biomass are the primary renewable energy resources used to generate electricity in Delaware, contributing about 3% of the state's net generation.56 Solar photovoltaic (PV) generation occurs at more than a half dozen utility-scale facilities, the largest of which has a net generating capacity of about 12 megawatts. Three utility-scale electricity generating plants in Delaware use landfill gas. Those plants have a combined net generating capacity of about 11 megawatts.57,58 A few Delaware households use renewable resources directly for home heating; about 1% use wood for heat and a smaller number (fewer than 0.1%) of Delaware households use solar energy for heating.59

Delaware has little wind resource potential onshore, and all of it is along the state's shoreline.60 The first and only onshore utility-scale wind turbine in the state was installed in 2010 at the University of Delaware, in the coastal town of Lewes.61 In 2010, the U.S. Department of the Interior began issuing requests for interest in the development of wind farms off the coast of Delaware and other Mid-Atlantic States. In the fall of 2012, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a lease for the commercial development of offshore wind on the Atlantic Continental Shelf off the coast of Delaware. After the project was cancelled by the original leaseholder, the lease was assigned to a new developer, who plans to construct an offshore wind farm with up to 600 megawatts of capacity near Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.62,63 The 2-megawatt onshore wind turbine continues to be the state's only operating wind project.64

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 from renewable resources each year, with an ultimate goal of 25% from renewable resources by the compliance year of 2025–26. A portion of each year's requirement must come from solar PV sources, reaching at least 3.5% of the electricity sold by 2025–26. 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.65

Delaware enacted an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard in 2009, but the public utilities commission did not fund it or establish energy-efficiency regulations. In 2014, the legislature directed the Sustainable Energy Utility (DESEU), a non-profit organization offering resources that help residents and businesses save money on electric and natural gas use through renewable energy and energy efficiency, to develop, measure, evaluate, and promote cost-effective energy-efficiency programs. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources was tasked with drafting energy measurement and verification regulations for the DESEU to use. Utilities in the state agreed to submit plans and begin programs by 2017.66,67,68

Endnotes

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Delaware Profile Overview, Map, accessed June 7, 2017.
2 State of Delaware Information Center, Delaware Geography, accessed June 7, 2017.
3 U.S. Census Bureau, QuickFacts, Delaware, accessed June 7, 2017.
4 State of Delaware Information Center, Delaware Economy and People, accessed June 7, 2017.
5 The Delaware Geological Survey, A Summary of the Geologic History of Delaware, accessed June 7, 2017.
6 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed June 7, 2017.
7 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Overview, Map Layers, All Power Plants, Biomass, Solar, and Wind, accessed June 7, 2017.
8 Delaware Solid Waste Authority, Landfill Gas Recovery, accessed June 24, 2016.
9 U.S. EIA, State Energy Production Estimates 1960 Through 2015, Table P3, Energy Production and Consumption Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2015.
10 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F30, Total Energy Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2015.
11 Brinson, Kevin, "A First Look at the Climate of the First State," Delaware's Climate, The CoCoRaHS 'State Climates' Series, accessed June 7, 2017.
12 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Rankings: Total Energy Consumed per Capita, 2014.
13 U.S. EIA, Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey (MECS), Table 1.2, First Use of Energy for All Purposes (Fuel and Nonfuel), 2010.
14 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, All industries, Delaware, 2015.
15 Agriculture in the Classroom, A Look at Delaware Agriculture, revised July 2010.
16 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F30, Total Energy Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2015.
17 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed June 8, 2017.
18 World Port Source, The Port of Wilmington, Port Commerce, accessed June 8, 2017.
19 U.S. EIA, Petroleum and Other Liquids, Company Level Imports, March 2017.
20 World Port Source, Port of Delaware City, Review and History, accessed June 8, 2017.
21 World Port Source, Port of Delaware City, Port Commerce, accessed June 8, 2017.
22 PBF Energy, Refineries, accessed June 8, 2017.
23 U.S. EIA, Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries, Delaware, 2016.
24 U.S. EIA, "Coking is a refinery process that produces 19% of finished petroleum product exports," Today in Energy (January 12, 2013).
25 PBF Energy, Refineries, Delaware City, Delaware, accessed June 8, 2017.
26 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F15, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2015.
27 U.S. Census Bureau, State Population Totals Tables: 2010–2016, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016 (NST-EST2016-01).
28 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F15, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2015.
29 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2015, DOE/EIA-0214(2015) (June 2017), Table C3, Primary Energy Consumption Estimates, 2015.
30 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline Standards, Reformulated Gasoline, accessed June 8, 2017.
31 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F15, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2015.
32 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Delaware, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011–15 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
33 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed June 8, 2017.
34 The Delaware Geological Survey, A Summary of the Geologic History of Delaware, accessed June 8, 2017.
35 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Data, Distribution and Marketing, accessed June 8, 2017.
36 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Delaware, accessed June 8, 2017.
37 Eastern Shore Natural Gas, Pipeline Zone Map, accessed June 8, 2017.
38 U.S. EIA, Delaware Natural Gas Industrial Consumption, accessed June 8, 2017.
39 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Delaware, 2011–15 accessed June 8, 2017.
40 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Delaware, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011–15 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
41 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Delaware, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011–15 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
42 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed June 8, 2017.
43 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data, 2015 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
44 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), Delaware, Table DS-7, Domestic Coal Distribution, by Destination State, 2015.
45 U.S. EIA, Delaware Electricity Profile 2015, Table 2B, Ten largest plants by generation, 2015, and Table 5, Electric power industry generation by primary energy source, 1990 through 2015.
46 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B, 1.7.B.
47 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data, 2015 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
48 Hurdle, Jon, "Delaware pursues federal emissions goals despite court challenge to Clean Power Plan," Delaware Public Media (February 26, 2016).
49 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B, 1.7.B, 1.8.B, 1.11.B, 1.17.B.
50 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Overview, Map Layers, All Power Plants, Other Power Plants, accessed June 8, 2017.
51 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data, 2015 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
52 U.S. EIA, State Nuclear Profiles 2010 (April 2012).
53 PJM, Delaware State Report (July 2016).
54 U.S. EIA, Delaware Electricity Profile 2015, Table 10, Supply and disposition of electricity, 1990 through 2015.
55 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Delaware, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011–15 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
56 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.11.B, 1.14.B, 1.15.B, 1.17.B.
57 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Overview, Map Layers, All Power Plants, accessed June 9, 2017.
58 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data, 2015 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
59 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Delaware, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011–15 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
60 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Delaware Wind Resource Map and Potential Wind Capacity, accessed June 9, 2017.
61 American Wind Energy Association, Delaware Wind Energy, accessed June 9, 2017.
62 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Renewable Energy Programs, Delaware Activities, accessed June 9, 2017.
63 4C Offshore, Garden State Offshore Energy Offshore Wind Farm (November 22, 2016).
64 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 detailed data, 2015 Form EIA-860 Data, Schedule 3, 'Generator Data' (Operable Units Only).
65 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Delaware Renewables Portfolio Standard, updated January 17, 2017.
66 U.S. EIA, Annual Energy Outlook 2016, DOE/EIA-0383(2016) (August 2016), p. LR-18.
67 Energize Delaware, Sustainable Energy, accessed June 9, 2017.
68 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Delaware Energy Efficiency Resource Standards, updated January 7, 2015.