What is the efficiency of different types of power plants?
Heat rate is one measure of the efficiency of electrical generators/power plants that convert a fuel into heat and into electricity. The heat rate is the amount of energy used by an electrical generator/power plant to generate one kilowatthour (kWh) of electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expresses heat rates in British thermal units (Btu) per net kWh generated. Net generation is the amount of electricity a power plant supplies to the power transmission line connected to the power plant. Net generation accounts for all the electricity that the power plant consumes to operate the plant’s generator(s) and other equipment, such as fuel feeding systems, boiler water pumps, cooling equipment, and pollution control devices.
To express the efficiency of a generator or power plant as a percentage, divide the equivalent Btu content of a kWh of electricity (3,412 Btu) by the heat rate. For example, if the heat rate is 10,500 Btu, the efficiency is 33%. If the heat rate is 7,500 Btu, the efficiency is 45%.
For information on EIA’s methodology for estimating energy consumption for generating electricity with non-combustible renewable energy sources (geothermal, hydro, solar, and wind energy), see Monthly Energy Review, Appendix E: Alternative Approaches for Deriving Energy Contents of Noncombustible Renewables.
Historical average annual heat rates for fossil fuel and nuclear power plants
Average annual heat rates for specific types of fossil-fuel generators and nuclear power plants
Approximate Heat Rates for Electricity, and Heat Content of Electricity (average annual heat rates from 1949 to most recent year available)
Last reviewed: September 20, 2021
Other FAQs about Electricity
- What is the outlook for home heating fuel prices this winter?
- How much does it cost to generate electricity with different types of power plants?
- Does EIA publish electric utility rate, tariff, and demand charge data?
- How many power plants are there in the United States?
- How much of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are associated with electricity generation?
- How much of U.S. energy consumption and electricity generation comes from renewable energy sources?
- How many alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles are there in the United States?
- How is electricity used in U.S. homes?
- How much electricity does an American home use?
- How much electricity is used for lighting in the United States?
- Does EIA publish data on peak or hourly electricity generation, demand, and prices?
- What is the difference between electricity generation capacity and electricity generation?
- How much electricity does a nuclear power plant generate?
- How much electricity is lost in electricity transmission and distribution in the United States?
- What is the efficiency of different types of power plants?
- How many smart meters are installed in the United States, and who has them?
- How many nuclear power plants are in the United States, and where are they located?
- How old are U.S. nuclear power plants, and when was the newest one built?
- What is U.S. electricity generation by energy source?
- How much energy does the world consume by each energy end-use sector?
- Does EIA publish energy consumption and price data for cities, counties, or by zip code?
- How much does it cost to build different types of power plants in the United States?
- Does EIA publish electricity consumption and price data by state and by utility?
- How much of world energy consumption and production is from renewable energy?
- Does EIA publish the location of electric power plants, transmission lines, and substations?
- Can electric utility customers choose their electricity supplier?
- How much coal, natural gas, or petroleum is used to generate a kilowatthour of electricity?
- Does EIA have data on each power plant in the United States?
- What types and amounts of energy are produced in each state?
- Does EIA have county-level energy production data?
- Does EIA have data on costs for electricity transmission and distribution?
- Does EIA have forecasts or projections for energy production, consumption, and prices for individual states?
- How much electricity is used for cooling in the United States?
- Does EIA have information on unplanned outages or shutdowns of U.S. energy infrastructure?