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Today in Energy

May 9, 2019

EIA expects less electricity to come from coal this summer as natural gas, renewables rise

U.S. net electricity generation by source
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, May 2019

EIA expects power plants in the United States will generate 1,168 million megawatthours of electricity during the 2019 summer months (June–August), 2% less than last summer, according to the May 2019 Short-Term Energy Outlook. EIA expects changes in the mix of energy sources, especially for coal, which is forecast to provide 25% of U.S. generation this summer, down from 28% last summer. Natural gas will provide the largest share of total U.S. generation this summer at 40%, up from 39% last summer, according to EIA’s forecast.

U.S. and regional net electricity generation from coal
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, May 2019

EIA forecasts U.S. coal-fired power plants to generate 289 million megawatthours (MWh) of electricity this summer, 13% less than last summer. Coal’s share of the electricity generation mix is highest in the Midwest Census region, where coal provided 49% of electricity last summer and where EIA expects it to provide 45% of electricity this summer.

U.S. and regional net electricity generation from natural gas
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, May 2019

EIA forecasts that U.S. natural gas-fired power plants will generate 472 million MWh of electricity this summer, 2.5% more than last summer. Natural gas is projected to account for about half of the electricity generation mix in both the South and Northeast Census regions this summer.

U.S. and regional net electricity generation from nuclear
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, May 2019

According to the May forecast, nuclear power plants will provide 18% of U.S. electricity generation this summer, unchanged from nuclear’s share last summer. In summer 2018, the nuclear share of generation for the summer months was highest in the Northeast Census region, at 33%, and EIA forecasts that share will decrease to 31% in 2019 as a result of the retirements of the Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey and the Pilgrim plant in Massachusetts.

U.S. and regional net electricity generation from renewables
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook, May 2019

At the national level, 9% of the 2018 U.S. summer generation mix was from nonhydro renewable sources, which include wind, biomass, geothermal, and utility-scale solar. Another 6% was from hydroelectric generation. In the summer of 2019, EIA forecasts those shares to be 9% for nonhydro renewables and 7% for hydro. The share of electricity generated from nonhydro and hydro renewable sources was highest in the West Census region, where those sources accounted for 15% and 22%, respectively, in the summer of 2018. Those shares are expected to increase to 17% and 23% in the upcoming summer.

Within nonhydro renewables, wind is expected to provide the largest share of generation this summer, at 6%. On an annual basis, wind is expected to provide 8% of the national total, slightly higher than hydro’s share at 7%. If realized, this would be the first time hydro did not provide the most generation of any other renewable resource.

Principal contributors: Christinne Govereau, Tyler Hodge