EIA: Gas Power Burn Down from 2012—But Coal Hasn’t Recovered

According to the latest data from the Energy Information Agency (EIA), while gas power burn is down from its peak last year, generation from coal has not recaptured much of what it lost.

EIA estimates show that electric power sector gas consumption was, on average, down 13% through November compared to the same period in 2012. This is attributable to natural gas prices that have averaged about $1/MMBtu more this year than last. Still, because 2013 prices are well below the previous five-year average (2007 to 2011), gas consumption remains above recent trends. This past summer also saw a decline in cooling degree days—typically the biggest driver of gas power burn—compared to last year.

But while coal took a big dip in 2012, at one point in April falling to parity with gas, it has not returned to its former levels. Through August, coal consumption for power generation totaled 576 million tons, according to the EIA. This is up slightly from the same period in 2012, when consumption was only 543 million tons, but well below the 643 million tons burned in the first eight months of 2011. Gas, by contrast, is above its 2011 figures: 5,305 Bcf through August 2013, compared to 4,951 Bcf for the same period two years ago. (The 2012 total was 6,272 Bcf.)

The trends appear to be continuing through the end of this year. Energy data firm Genscape estimates that year-on-year, total gas-fired generation fell only 2% from last November, while coal-fired generation fell by 9%. Instead, nuclear and renewables have largely stepped in to replace gas, with nuclear up 13% and renewables up a whopping 20% over last November. For 2013 as a whole, Genscape estimates gas will fall by 12% compared to 2012, with coal rebounding only 4%.

 —Thomas W. Overton, JD, gas technology editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine)



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