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Today in Energy

December 15, 2015

New database provides monthly inventory and status of U.S. electric generating plants

map of operable utility-scale generating units as of September 2015, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860, Form 860M

EIA's recently introduced Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory consolidates currently available information on electric generators into a single product. This new database will enable users to identify monthly changes in generator status and to track units that are being added or retired from the generating fleet.

Monthly tracking of electricity generator additions is particularly important given the rapid increase in utility-scale (1 megawatt or greater) solar generating units, which have been installed at a rate of 24 plants per month in 2015 and account for nearly two-thirds of the total plants added this year. The full database includes 19,914 operating power plants with more than a million megawatts of net summer capacity (as of September 2015), as well as 1,080 planned plants, 2,989 retired plants, and 687 canceled or postponed plants.

graph of generating capacity retirements and additions in 2015, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860, Form 860M

The new database integrates information submitted on the monthly survey Form EIA-860M, Monthly Update to Annual Electric Generator Report, and on the annual survey Form EIA-860, Annual Electric Generator Report, and provides information on plant operators, generator fuel and type, operator, and operating status. Generators can be analyzed by sector, state, capacity, technology type, energy source, and prime mover (i.e., a device used to transform one form of energy, commonly mechanical, into electric energy).

graph of generating capacity additions and retirements in 2015, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860, Form 860M

Another useful aspect of the new database is the spreadsheet listing planned capacity additions. This information tracks the status of electric generators 1 MW or greater by plant, sector, state, technology, planned operation date, and the current status of each project. These values reflect planned additions reported by project developers rather than projections such as those in the Short-Term Energy Outlook or the Annual Energy Outlook.

The month of December typically has a high number of reported additions. The year-end expiration of tax credits in certain years can lead to a rush of activity at the end of the calendar year. Large reported December values are also attributable to how respondents report the data; many projects expected to begin operation sometime during a particular year are conservatively estimated for a December completion date.

Planned additions from October 2015 through the end of 2016 are almost entirely composed of wind (39% of total), solar (29%), and natural gas (26%) generators, as measured by net summer capacity.

The data in the Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory will be updated and published monthly as part of EIA's Electric Power Monthly.

Principal contributor: Tim Shear