Monday, March 21, 2016

"Natural gas expected to surpass coal in mix of fuel used for U.S. power generation in 2016"

Last year we had some months where natty was top dog starting in the peak of the peaker season:

July 13, 2015: "Milestones: 'Natural Gas Overtakes Coal for Electricity Production'"
July 31, 2015: "Electricity from natural gas surpasses coal for first time, but just for one month"
July 31, 2015: "Ummm, Remember When I Said "Milestones: 'Natural Gas Overtakes Coal for Electricity Production'"? Here's the Rest Of the Story"

Here's the latest, from the Energy Information Administration's Today in Energy blog, March 18:

graph of annual share of total U.S. electricity generation by source, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration,  

For decades, coal has been the dominant energy source for generating electricity in the United States. EIA's Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) is now forecasting that 2016 will be the first year that natural gas-fired generation exceeds coal generation in the United States on an annual basis. Natural gas generation first surpassed coal generation on a monthly basis in April 2015, and the generation shares for coal and natural gas were nearly identical in 2015, each providing about one-third of all electricity generation.

The mix of fuels used for electricity generation has evolved over time. The recent decline in the generation share of coal, and the concurrent rise in the share of natural gas, was mainly a market-driven response to lower natural gas prices that have made natural gas generation more economically attractive. Between 2000 and 2008, coal was significantly less expensive than natural gas, and coal supplied about 50% of total U.S. generation. However, beginning in 2009, the gap between coal and natural gas prices narrowed, as large amounts of natural gas produced from shale formations changed the balance between supply and demand in U.S. natural gas markets.
graph of average fuel receipt costs at electric generating plants, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration,  

Coal and natural gas generation shares over the past decade have been responsive to changes in relative fuel prices. For example, particularly low natural gas prices throughout much of 2012 following an extremely mild 2011–12 winter led to a significant rise in the natural gas generation share between 2011 and 2012, often displacing coal-fired generation. With higher natural gas prices in 2013 and 2014, coal regained some of its generation share. However, with a return to lower natural gas prices in 2015 favoring increased natural gas-fired generation, coal's generation share dropped again....MORE
And why this is happening:

Demand trends, prices, and policies drive recent electric generation capacity additions
graph of electric generation capacity additions by technology, as explained in the article text
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration,  
Monthly Electric Generator Inventory, and Platts Electric Capacity Database

The combination of slower electricity demand growth, low natural gas prices, and policies that encourage renewables-sourced electricity generation is changing the type and the amount of generating capacity added each year.

Capacity additions since 2000 are being made under market conditions that differ significantly from those that existed for much of the 20th century. In the last half of the 20th century, additions to new generation capacity could serve growing electricity demand, and plant operators could reliably count on electricity sales to increase as demand for electricity-consuming appliances and equipment grew. For this reason, new capacity added during that time had only a limited effect on the utilization rates of existing generation capacity.

On a net basis, the United States added an average of 18.3 gigawatts of additional capacity each year from 1950 to 2015. Two time periods of above-average additions occurred during the oil price crisis of the 1970s and the natural gas-fired capacity buildout of the early 2000s....MORE 
If you follow the link you'll see the growth rate in electricity sales continues its downward trend.