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Delaware   Delaware Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

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(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: October 21, 2021

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 less than 40 miles in width, it is the second-smallest state in the nation.2 Most of Delaware's population of nearly 1 million people lives in the northern part of the state near its borders with densely populated New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania.3,4 Delaware is largely a flat coastal plain with the exception of the extreme northern portion of the state, west of the Delaware River, where rolling hills rise to about 450 feet. Swiftly moving rivers that flow down from those hills supported the state's early economic development when a variety of mills were active in the Wilmington area.5 Delaware has no fossil fuel reserves, but it has and uses its renewable resources, including solar, biomass, and wind energy.6,7,8

Delaware consumes almost 75 times more energy than it produces.

Delaware has the smallest total energy production of any state in the nation, and the state consumes almost 75 times more energy than it produces. Delaware's total energy consumption is the third-lowest in the nation, after Vermont and Rhode Island.9,10 However, Delaware's per capita energy consumption is near the national average due, in part, to the balance between its relatively mild ocean-moderated climate, its service economy, its small population, and its energy-intensive manufacturing industries.11,12,13 Delaware is home to chemical plants, food-processing companies, and petroleum-refining. But, financial services—including banking, insurance, real estate, and the corporate headquarters for more than two-thirds of the nation's Fortune 500 corporations—contribute more to Delaware's gross domestic product (GDP) than any other business activities.14,15,16 The industrial and transportation sectors each consume nearly three-tenths of Delaware's total energy, and the residential and commercial sectors each use about one-fifth. The industrial sector, which includes agriculture, is Delaware's largest energy consumer. Chemical manufacturing and petroleum refining are the largest contributors to the state's industrial GDP, and poultry farming accounts for the largest share of the state's farm income.17,18 The residential sector accounts for slightly more of the state's energy consumption than the commercial sector.19

Petroleum

Delaware does not have any crude oil reserves or production, but it does have one petroleum refinery.20,21 The Port of Wilmington—which is the world's largest port for handling bananas and the nation's leading 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 refined petroleum products. Crude oil from around the world arrives at the port and at the smaller Port of Delaware City, nine nautical miles downriver from Wilmington, site of the state's only oil refinery.22,23,24 The Delaware City refinery can process more than 170,000 barrels of crude oil per calendar day into motor gasoline, home heating oil, and other petroleum products.25 The refinery relies on crude oil supplies delivered via the Delaware River and by rail. It is connected to a petroleum product distribution network that includes pipelines, barges, tankers, trucks, and railroads.26

About one in five Delaware households heat with fuel oil or propane.

Petroleum provides the largest share of the energy consumed in Delaware, accounting for about two-fifths of the state's total energy use.27 Per capita petroleum consumption in Delaware is greater than in almost two-thirds of the states.28 The transportation sector is the state's largest petroleum consumer and accounts for 70% of the petroleum used in Delaware, and half of that is used as motor gasoline.29,30 Delaware requires the use of reformulated motor gasoline blended with ethanol throughout the state to limit smog and toxic pollutant formation.31 The industrial sector uses about 22% of the petroleum consumed in the state, and the residential sector, where about one in five households use fuel oil or propane as their primary energy source for home heating, consumes about 5%. The commercial sector uses the rest except for a very small amount that the electric power sector uses to generate electricity.32,33

Natural gas

Although exploratory drilling in the 1970s and 1980s in waters off Delaware's Atlantic Coast found noncommercial quantities of natural gas, the state does not have any natural gas reserves or production.34,35,36 All of Delaware's natural gas supplies arrive by interstate pipeline from Pennsylvania, and about one-tenth of that natural gas is sent on to Maryland's Eastern Shore, which occupies the western portion of the Delmarva Peninsula.37,38

Delaware's per capita natural gas consumption is greater than in more than half the states.39,40 In 2019, natural gas use in the industrial sector surpassed the amount used by the electric power sector for the first time since 2010. In 2020, the industrial sector, which includes chemical manufacturing and food processing, accounted for nearly two-fifths of the state's natural gas consumption. The electric power sector used about three-tenths of natural gas deliveries, a decrease from half in 2016. The commercial sector accounted for nearly one-fifth of natural gas deliveries to Delaware consumers, while the residential sector, where more than two in five households rely on natural gas for space heating, accounted for more than one-eighth.41,42

Electricity

Natural gas fuels more than 90% of Delaware’s in-state electricity generation.

Natural gas fuels most of Delaware's in-state power generation. The contribution of natural gas-fired power plants to Delaware's utility-scale (1 megawatt or larger) electricity net generation increased dramatically during the past decade, rising from 50% of the state's net generation in 2010 to more than 90% in 2020.43 Natural gas fuels 6 of the 10 largest power plants in the state measured by capacity and 7 of the 10 largest plants by actual electricity generation.44 As natural gas-fired generation increased, coal's contribution to state generation decreased. Coal-fired power plants provided 46% of Delaware's net generation in 2010, but only 2% in 2020, all of which was from the one remaining coal-fired power plant in the state. That coal-fired plant, located in southern Delaware, is scheduled to close in mid-2022. Small amounts of manufactured gases, renewables, and petroleum liquids fuel the rest of the state's utility-scale electricity generation.45,46 Delaware does not have any nuclear power plants.47

Delaware's electricity retail sales are smaller than in all but five other states. However, on a per capita basis, the state consumes more electricity than 18 other states, and Delaware's residential per capita use is among the top 20 states.48 In-state generation typically supplies much less electricity than is used by Delaware consumers. In 2019, only 46% of the electricity sold in the state was generated in Delaware. The rest came from out-of-state power suppliers via the region's electric grid, the PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in Delaware and a dozen other states.49,50 In 2020, Delaware's residential sector accounted for 45% of the state's electricity retail sales, the commercial sector accounted for 38%, and the industrial sector accounted for 17%.51 Almost one in three Delaware households rely on electricity for home heating.52

Renewable energy

Solar energy and biomass generate most of the renewable electricity in Delaware. Together, they contributed more than 2% of the state's net generation from utility-scale facilities in 2020.53 The state has almost a dozen utility-scale solar facilities that use solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, the largest of which has a generating capacity of nearly 12 megawatts.54 However, in 2020, Delaware generated more than twice as much electricity from small-scale, customer-sited solar generating systems (less than 1 megawatt), such as rooftop solar panels, than from utility-scale solar facilities. Overall, solar supplied almost 4% of the state's total electricity from both utility- and small-scale facilities in 2020.55 Landfill gas fuels three utility-scale biomass power plants in Delaware. Those plants have a combined net generating capacity of about 14 megawatts.56 A biomass processing plant that will use anaerobic digestion to capture methane from chicken manure is in development at a site in the southern part of the state.57 Of the small number of Delaware households that use renewable resources directly for home heating, about 1% rely on wood for heat and about 0.3% use solar thermal energy for heating.58

Delaware has limited onshore wind energy potential, most of it along the state's shoreline.59 The first and, so far, only onshore utility-scale wind facility operating in the state is a 2-megawatt wind turbine that was installed in 2010 at the University of Delaware campus in the town of Lewes on the Delaware Bay.60,61 There are significant wind energy resources farther offshore, and one wind project, Skipjack, 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 generated from the project is contracted for delivery to customers in Maryland.62,63,64 Delaware has no utility-scale hydroelectric generation.65

Delaware power suppliers must have 40% of the electricity they sell generated by renewable sources by 2035.

First adopted in 2005, Delaware's renewable portfolio standard (RPS) required that electricity retail suppliers in the state obtain 10% of power sales from renewables by 2020. In 2010, it was expanded to 25% by 2025, with a solar PV minimum of 3.5%. In 2021, the RPS was further expanded to require 40% renewable power sales by 2035 with 10% from solar PV.66 Qualifying renewable energy technologies include: solar PV and solar thermal; geothermal electric; wind; ocean tidal and thermal; fuel cells powered by renewable and non-renewable fuels; hydroelectric facilities with a maximum capacity of 30 megawatts; sustainable biomass; anaerobic digestion; and landfill gas.67 To meet the RPS' goals, Delaware's electricity retail suppliers may need to acquire renewable energy credits or renewably sourced power from other states. However, Delaware in-state generators have already met the interim goal of 3.5% solar PV sourced power by 2025.68 In 2020, the state's net generation from both small- and large-scale solar powered facilities was 3.7%.69

Coal

Delaware does not have any coal reserves or production.70 The small amount of coal consumed in the state arrives by rail from Pennsylvania and is delivered to the electric power sector.71 In 2020, the state's one remaining coal-fired power plant, the 410-megawatt Indian River Generating Station, consumed all of the coal used for electricity generation in Delaware. The plant is used infrequently and is scheduled to shut down in 2022.72

Endnotes

1 World Atlas, Delaware, accessed September 17, 2021.
2 State of Delaware Information Center, Delaware Geography, accessed September 17, 2021.
3 U.S. Census Bureau, QuickFacts, Delaware, Population, accessed September 17, 2021.
4 U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census: Delaware Profile, Population Density by Census Tract.
5 World Port Source, Delaware, The Port of Wilmington, Review and History, Port History, accessed September 17, 2021.
6 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Delaware Profile Data, Reserves, accessed September 17, 2021.
7 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend: Biomass Power Plant, Solar Power Plant, and Wind Power Plant, accessed September 17, 2021.
8 Delaware Solid Waste Authority, Landfill Gas Recovery, accessed September 17, 2021.
9 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table P3, Energy Production and Consumption Estimates in Trillion Btu, 2019.
10 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F33, Total Energy Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2019.
11 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C14, Total Energy Consumption Estimates per Capita by End-Use Sector, Ranked by State, 2019.
12 Brinson, Kevin, "A First Look at the Climate of the First State," Delaware's Climate, The CoCoRaHS ‘State Climates' Series, accessed September 17, 2021.
13 NETSTATE, Delaware, Delaware Economy, Services, updated December 19, 2017.
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, Delaware, All statistics in table, 2019.
15 NETSTATE, Delaware, Delaware Economy, updated December 19, 2017.
16 Delaware Division of Corporations, About the Division of Corporations, accessed September 21, 2021.
17 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, State Fact Sheets: Delaware, Top Commodities, Exports, and Counties, Top 5 agriculture commodities, 2020.
18 NETSTATE, Delaware, Delaware Economy, Agriculture, updated December 19, 2017.
19 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F33, Total Energy Consumption, Price, and Expenditure Estimates, 2019.
20 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, Estimated Production and Proved Reserves as of 12/31, 2014-19.
21 U.S. EIA, Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries, Delaware, Annual, 2021.
22 World Port Source, The Port of Wilmington, Port Commerce, accessed September 21, 2021.
23 U.S. EIA, Crude Imports, Imports of all grades to Delaware 2019, 2016-19.
24 World Port Source, Port of Delaware City, Review and History, and Port Commerce, accessed September 21, 2021.
25 U.S. EIA, Number and Capacity of Petroleum Refineries, Delaware, Annual, 2021.
26 PBF Energy, Refineries, Delaware City, Delaware, accessed September 21, 2021.
27 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C1, Energy Consumption Overview: Estimates by Energy Source and End-Use Sector, 2019.
28 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C15, Petroleum Consumption Total and per Capita, Ranked by State, 2019.
29 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F16, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2019.
30 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C3, Primary Energy Consumption Estimates, 2019.
31 Larson, B. K., U.S. Gasoline Requirements, ExxonMobil (January 2018).
32 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table F16, Total Petroleum Consumption Estimates, 2019.
33 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Delaware.
34 The Delaware Geological Survey, A Summary of the Geologic History of Delaware, Atlantic Coastal Plain, accessed September 21, 2021.
35 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Reserves Summary as of Dec. 31, Dry Natural Gas, Annual, 2014-19.
36 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Withdrawals, Annual, 2015-20.
37 U.S. EIA, Delaware Profile Overview, Map, Layers/Legend: Natural Gas Interstate Pipeline, accessed September 22, 2021.
38 U.S. EIA, International and Interstate Movements of Natural Gas by State, Delaware, 2015-20.
39 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Annual Supply and Disposition by State, Consumption, Annual, 2015-20.
40 U.S. Census Bureau, State Population Totals: 2010-2020, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2019; April 1, 2020; and July 1, 2020 (NST-EST 2020).
41 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Delaware, 2015-20.
42 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Delaware.
43 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Delaware, Fuel Type (Check all), Annual, 2001-20.
44 U.S. EIA, Delaware Electricity Profile 2019, Tables 2A, 2B.
45 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Delaware, Fuel Type (Check all), Annual, 2001-20.
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 2021, Delaware, Conventional Steam Coal.
47 U.S. EIA, Nuclear and Uranium, Nuclear Reactor, State, and Net Capacity (September 2020).
48 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C17, Electricity Retail Sales, Total and Residential, Total and per Capita, Ranked by State, 2019.
49 PJM, About PJM, Who We Are, accessed September 22, 2021.
50 U.S. EIA, Delaware Electricity Profile 2019, Tables 1, 10.
51 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Retail sales of electricity, Delaware, End-Use Sector (Check all), Annual, 2001-20.
52 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 ACS 1-Year Estimates Detailed Tables, Delaware.
53 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Delaware, Fuel Type (Check all), Annual, 2001-20.
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 2021, Delaware, Technology: Solar Photovoltaic.
55 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Delaware, Fuel Type (Check all), Annual, 2001-20.
56 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 2021, Delaware, Technology: Landfill Gas.
57 Tabeling, Katie, "Sussex approves Bioenergy Devco litter digester plant," Delaware Business Times (April 20, 2021).
58 U.S. Census Bureau, House Heating Fuel, Table B25040, 2019 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 September 23, 2021.
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 2021, Delaware, Technology: Onshore Wind Turbine.
61 University of Delaware, UD's Wind Turbine, accessed September 23, 2021.
62 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Wind Energy in Delaware, Maps & Data, accessed September 23, 2021.
63 Orsted, Skipjack Wind Farm, accessed September 23, 2021.
64 U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Renewable Energy, Delaware Activities, accessed September 23, 2021.
65 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Delaware, Fuel Type (Check all), Annual, 2001-20.
66 Delaware Office of the Governor, "Governor Carney Signs Legislation Raising Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)," Press Release (February 10, 2021).
67 NC Clean Energy Technology Center, DSIRE, Delaware Renewables Portfolio Standard, updated May 21, 2021.
68 Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Division of Climate, Coastal, & Energy, Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, accessed September 23, 2021.
69 U.S. EIA, Electricity Data Browser, Net Generation for All Sectors, Delaware, Fuel Type (Check all), Annual, 2001-20.
70 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2019 (October 2020), Tables 6 and 15.
71 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2019 (October 2020), 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, 2019.
72 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 2021, Delaware, Technology: Conventional Steam Coal.