U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis
Frequently Asked Questions
How much coal, natural gas, or petroleum is used to generate a kilowatthour of electricity?
The amount of fuel used to generate electricity depends on the efficiency or heat rate of the generator (or power plant) and the heat content of the fuel. Power plant efficiencies (heat rates) vary by types of generators, power plant emission controls, and other factors. Fuel heat contents also vary.
Two formulas can be used to calculate the amount of fuel used to generate a kilowatthour (kWh) of electricity:
- Amount of fuel used per kWh = Heat rate (in British Thermal Units (Btu) per kWh) divided by Fuel heat content (in Btu per physical unit)
- Kilowatthour generated per unit of fuel used = Fuel heat content (in Btu per physical unit) divided by Heat rate (in Btu per kWh)
Data sources for the calculations:
- Table 7.3. Average Quality of Fossil Fuel Receipts for the Electric Power Industry ( xls )
- Table 8.1. Average Operating Heat Rate for Selected Energy Sources ( xls )
- Table 8.2 Average Tested Heat Rates by Prime Mover and Energy Source ( xls )
You can calculate the average amounts of fuels used to generate electricity in the United States, in each state, and at individual power plants using
- Data on total U.S. electricity generation (Table(s) 7.2 ) and fuel consumption for electricity generation (Table(s) 7.3)
- State-level historical electricity data files with annual and monthly electricity generation and fuel consumption
- Data on fuel consumption and electricity generation by fuel/energy source at U.S. power plants
Last updated: March 3, 2017
Other FAQs about Coal
- Does EIA have county-level energy production data?
- Does EIA have projections for energy production, consumption, and prices for individual states?
- Does EIA publish coking coal prices?
- From what country does the United States import the most coal?
- How do I convert between short tons and metric tons?
- How large are U.S. coal reserves?
- How many power plants are there in the United States?
- How much coal, natural gas, or petroleum is used to generate a kilowatthour of electricity?
- Which states produce the most coal?
- To what country does the United States export the most coal?
- What are the different coal prices published by EIA?
- What is the average heat content of U.S. coal?
- What types and amounts of energy are produced in each state?