Coal tops gas as leading generation source in first half of 2017
- Data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration indicates total electricity generation fell in the first half of 2017, relative to the same period last year, and coal is once again the largest fuel source on the grid.
- Coal supplied about 30% of the United States' power from January through June, compared with 29% for natural gas.
- According to EIA's last "Short Term Energy Outlook," coal generation is expected to exceed natural gas for full-year 2017 as well as 2018. Rising gas prices and exports are expected to fuel the trend.
SNL Energy has dug into EIA's most recent "Electric Power Monthly" report, revealing overall generation is declining. Utility-scale electricity generation is down 1.6% in the first half of 2017, compared with the first half of 2016. Coal generation is up almost 5% over the same period, while gas declined more than 14%.
Renewables supplied 19.5% in the first six months, about three percent higher than last year.
Those figures largely line up with EIA has been anticipating, after natural gas-fired power plants last year exceeded output from coal-fired plants. The agency expects the total share of gas-fired utility-scale generation this year will average 31%, down from more than a third last year. Coal's share of U.S. generation is expected to rise from 30% last year to almost 32% this year.
Coal is expected to remain atop gas generation in 2018, as well, in part due to a rise in natural gas exports that keep prices high.
Dry natural gas production is forecast to average 73.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) this year — a 1.2 Bcf/d increase from the 2016 level. According to EIA, gas production next year will reach 3.9 Bcf/d above the 2017 level.
Wind capacity at the end of 2016 was 81 GW, and EIA expects additions will bring total wind capacity to 88 GW by the end of 2017 and to 102 GW by the end of 2018. Total utility-scale solar capacity at the end of 2016 was 22 GW, and is expected to rise to 29 GW by the end of 2017 and to 32 GW by the end of 2018.
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