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NatGas Tops Coal For Power Generation Fourth Month in A Row

Natural gas strengthened its hold on the top spot for domestic power generation in October, according to the latest figures published last week by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

For the fourth consecutive month, more electricity was generated from natural gas than from coal, EIA said. In October, gas supplied 109.9 million MWh, or about 35% of total U.S. utility-scale generation. Coal supplied 97.4 million MWh for the month, or about 31%. In the previous month, gas accounted for 35% of total generation, compared to 34% from coal.

In October, natural gas consumption in the electric sector was up 12.3% year/year, while coal consumption was down 11.7%. Total generation was down 0.5% from the year-ago period.

This year marked the first time that gas usurped coal’s traditionally dominant role as the leading fuel for domestic power since EIA began collecting monthly generation data in 1973. Gas outpaced coal for electric generation first in April, then again in July, August, September and October.

“Looking back over the past five years, the natural gas monthly share of U.S. electricity generation has risen from about 25.2% in October 2010 to 35.1% in October 2015, while coal’s share of U.S. electricity generation has dropped from 43% to about 31.1% during the same time period,” EIA said in a note accompanying its monthly data release. “Prior to 2015, the last time electricity generation from natural gas came close to surpassing coal-fired generation was in April 2012, when coal had a 32.6% share and natural gas had a 32.1% share.”

Officials have pointed to low natural gas prices made possible by U.S. production growth as the main driver behind the power resource shift (see Daily GPI, Dec. 2; Oct. 28).

A number of utilities have been executing strategic mergers and acquisitions recently that reflect a growing intersection of gas and electric markets (see Daily GPI, Dec. 24).

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