Tuesday, March 30, 2021

EIA: "Less electricity was generated by coal than nuclear in the United States in 2020"

As we saw a couple weeks ago the U.S. is doing a world-leading job of de-carbonizing. However...

First up, from the EIA's Today in Energy (also on blogroll at right): 

U.S. coal and nuclear electricity generation

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly and State Electricity Profiles
Note: The dotted gray line represents a counterfactual electricity generation calculation that assumes the coal fleet’s capacity factor remained constant at its 2008 level.

U.S. coal-fired electricity generated totaled 774 million megawatthours (MWh) in 2020, which is less than both natural gas-fired (1.6 billion MWh) and nuclear-powered generation (790 million MWh), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly. Last year marked the first time that coal was not the largest or second-largest source of annual electricity generation in the United States since at least 1949. However, EIA expects U.S. coal-fired electricity generation to increase and for nuclear-powered electricity generation to decrease in both 2021 and 2022.

Coal-fired electricity generation in the United States has continued to decrease as coal-fired generating units have been retired or converted to use other fuels and as the remaining coal-fired generating units have been used less often. U.S. operating coal-fired electricity generation capacity measured 313 gigawatts (GW) in 2008. In that year, the earliest for which EIA’s State Electricity Profiles have capacity factor data, coal’s capacity factor was 72%. Capacity factors measure the actual generation output for a fleet of generators as a percentage of what those generators are capable of generating. By 2020, coal’s operating capacity had fallen to 223 GW, and the coal fleet’s capacity factor had fallen to 40%.

Nuclear-powered generation was relatively steady in the previous decade. Although several nuclear power plants were retired, that decline in capacity was partially offset by uprates at several plants and the addition of Watts Bar Unit 2 in Tennessee. U.S. nuclear power, with 97 GW of capacity in 2020, has less than half as much operating capacity as coal, but nuclear power plants are operated more intensively. Nuclear’s capacity factor in 2020 was 93%.

U.S. electricity generation by source
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO)

In the most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook, EIA expects U.S. coal-fired generation to increase and for nuclear-powered generation to decrease in both 2021 and 2022. EIA expects that increases in natural gas prices will make coal more competitive in the electric power sector. This expected increase in coal’s utilization more than offsets the upcoming retirement of 2.8 GW of coal capacity in 2021 and another 8.5 GW in 2022, according to planned changes reported to EIA by owners and developers and compiled in EIA’s Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory.

EIA expects nuclear-powered electricity generation to decrease because three nuclear plants (totaling 5.1 GW of capacity) plan to retire in 2021. Another plant, Michigan’s Palisades, plans to retire in 2022. One nuclear power plant, Vogtle, in Georgia, plans to add 1.1 GW of capacity in November 2021 and 1.1 GW in November 2022, based on information reported to EIA. ....

Emphasis ours. 

And the outro from March 22's "China's new coal power plant capacity in 2020 more than three times rest of world's":

China is also financing and building coal-fired power plants across Africa, a move reminiscent of their construction of  HFC-23 refrigerant plants.*

And from MishTalk at TheStreet.com some numbers through 2019 i.e. not including the covid-19 related U.S. reductions of 2020, January 28, 2021:

CO2 Stats

  • Please note that the US reduced its carbon footprint from 6.13 billion tons in 2007 to 5.28 billion tons in 2019.

  • Meanwhile, China increased its footprint from 6.86 billion tons in 2007 to 10.17 billion tons in 2019.

  • In the same timeframe, global output rose from 31.29 billion tons to 36.44 billion tons.

  • In 2007, the US accounted for 19.6% of the total global carbon footprint.

  • In 2019, the US accounted for only 14.5% of the total global footprint.

The above stats are from Our World CO2 Emissions.

*From December 27, 2020's "Why Is China Placing Huge (Global) Bets On Coal?":

....For some reason I can't get HFC-23 out of my head. It's a refrigerant chemical that China used to rake in billions from the Kyoto treaty signatories (read German hausfraus).

HFC-23 is 12,000 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2.

They would build plants to make the stuff  (as a byproduct of HFC-22) and then offer to shut them down for Kyoto cash. Based on the estimated lifetime production of the plants. Best guess is they netted $6 billion after construction costs.

After a while (years) the carbon credit people caught on and then we saw China's reaction:

"China Threatens Massive Venting of Super Greenhouse Gases in Attempt to Extort Billions as UNFCCC Meeting Approaches" 

We aren't HFC-23 Johnnys-come-lately. From September 2007: 

China's Kyoto Scam = $Billions

No matter what the U.S. and Europe do, even taking Co2 emissions to zero, matters not at all as long as China is making nice words on the world stage and pumping out the carbon.

All that combination accomplishes is putting the Western economies at huge cost disadvantages, in effect borrowing money from China to buy Chinese wind turbines to raise Western electricity prices to levels that make manufacturing wind and solar in the West noncompetitive.

But maybe that's the whole point. 

Who knows?