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In-brief analysis
May 30, 2024

Our U.S. summer natural gas consumption forecast for electric power matches 2023 record

U.S. average summer natural gas consumption in the electric power sector

Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), May 2024

We forecast that the natural gas consumed for electricity generation this summer in the United States will reach near the record set last year. Despite a 3% increase in overall U.S. electricity generation this summer, we do not expect natural gas consumption for electricity generation to grow. Growth in electricity generation will be largely driven by increased renewable energy production. In our May 2024 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), we forecast natural gas consumed to generate electricity will average 44.7 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in the United States during the peak summer months of June through August, matching the record high set in the summer of 2023.

Over the past few years, the balance of sources of electricity generation in the United States—especially in the summer—has shifted to more renewables and natural gas and less coal. U.S. natural gas-fired electric power generation has increased most years since 2014 as natural gas-fired generation has become more competitive with coal. Natural gas-fired generation capacity has increased over this period as well.

Since 2014, U.S. electric grid operators have increasingly dispatched natural gas-fired generation to meet growing electricity demand at the same time that U.S. natural gas production has increased. More efficient combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plants, along with increased availability and relatively low prices for natural gas, have made natural gas-fired generation cheaper to run, increasing the use of natural gas as an electricity source compared with coal. Total U.S. natural gas-fired generation capacity has grown by 19%, or 79 gigawatts, since 2014, and generation has grown 60%, or 675,000 gigawatthours, according to data from our Electric Power Monthly. Between 2014 and 2023, the average annual capacity factor has also increased from 49% to 59% at CCGT power plants.

Simple-cycle natural gas turbine (SCGT) plants, normally used as peaking plants, are dispatched more frequently in summer months when daily fluctuations in electricity demand are highest. SCGT plants have increasingly been used in the summer, which is a major contributing factor to growing natural gas-fired electricity generation. Between 2014 and 2023, the capacity factor at SCGT power plants grew from 8% to 14%. The SCGT power plant capacity factor in 2022 and 2023 averaged over 20% for parts of the summer.

As electric generation capacity from renewable sources grows, natural gas is used increasingly to balance the intermittent nature of electricity produced from wind and solar. Since 2014, the share of U.S. electricity generation from natural gas in the summer has increased almost every year except 2021, increasing from 29% in 2014 to 46% in 2023. In 2024, we forecast a slight decline in the share of U.S. summer natural gas-fired electricity generation to 44% and a shift to more electricity generation from renewable sources, particularly solar. Electricity generation from renewable sources has increased steadily since 2018, largely due to increased wind and solar generation capacity.

U.S. summer electricity generation by select sources
Data source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), May 2024

Coal-fired electricity generation has been declining since 2014 as coal-fired generation has become less competitive. During the summer of 2023, coal-fired electricity generation decreased 51%, or 218 billion kilowatthours (BkWh), when compared with the summer of 2014.

Principal contributors: Max Ober, Trinity Manning-Pickett