- Coal generation will exceed natural gas this year as well as next, the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted in its most recent Short Term Energy Outlook. Rising exports of natural gas, along with consumption and prices, will help fuel the trend.
- 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 United States generation rises from 30% last year to almost 32% this year. Looking ahead to next year, those levels are expected to remain stable.
- The projected generation shares for natural gas and coal are nearly identical in 2018, averaging between 31% and 32%.
Coal isn't going away any time soon, and according to the EIA, will still be the United States' top generating fuel for at least a couple more years.
According to EIA data, total U.S. electricity generation from utility-scale power plants averaged 11,145 GWh/day in 2016. While that figure will decline a bit more than 1% this year, 2018 generation will rebound 1.8% next year, "largely on a forecast of colder temperatures during the first quarter ... and on the expectation of a growing economy."
A rise in natural gas exports will keep prices high, and allow coal generation to maintain its position. 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.
This month and next, EIA expects Henry Hub gas to average about $3/MMBtu, but "higher natural gas exports and growing domestic natural gas consumption in 2018 contribute to the forecast Henry Hub natural gas spot price rising." Those prices will rise from an annual average of $3.06/MMBtu in 2017 to $3.29/MMBtu in 2018.
Wind capacity at the end of 2016 was 81 GW, and EIA expects wind capacity additions in the forecast 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 will rise to 29 GW by the end of 2017 and to 32 GW by the end of 2018.
As for greenhouse gases, following a 1.7% decline in CO2 emissions last year, they are projected to decrease 0.3% in 2017 and then to increase 2% in 2018, on factors including weather, economic growth and energy prices.