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May 23, 2013

Coal regains some electric generation market share from natural gas

graph of share of total net generation, as explained in the article text.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly.
Note: Other includes petroleum, purchased steam, nonbiogenic municipal solid wastes, batteries, and other sources of electric generation.

After an equal share of electric power was generated from coal and natural gas in April 2012, EIA's most recent preliminary data through March 2013 show coal has generated 40% or more of the nation's electricity each month since November 2012, with natural gas fueling about 25% of generation during the same period.

Since May 2012, a combination of higher prices for natural gas and increased demand for electricity during the summer months led electric systems across much of the country to increase their use of coal-fired units. In March 2013, coal-fired units generated a little over 130,000 megawatthours of electricity, while natural gas units produced nearly 85,000 megawatthours.

Heading into the 2013 spring shoulder season (between winter and summer), when demand for electricity typically falls, higher prices for natural gas reduced the fuel's share of total generation below the record levels of last April.

Nonetheless, the coal share of total generation remained well below its typical range prior to 2009. Between 2001 and 2008, the coal share (on an annual basis) ranged from 48% to 51%. Coal last achieved a 50% share in 2005 and is expected to be 40% in 2013, according to the most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook.

Recent statistics on electricity generation and the consumption, prices, and quantity of fuels used to produce electricity through March 2013 were released in the Electric Power Monthly, and regional trends in the use of these resources were discussed in the Electricity Monthly Update.