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NatGas Trumps Coal in July For ERCOT Power Plants

Entering the heart of summer in Texas, the intensifying heat has elevated natural gas as the top fuel for electricity generation in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) region, according to a new report from the independent system operator (ISO).

In July, natural gas as a fuel for ERCOT power plants accounted for 15.3 million MWh, or 44.6% of the total fuel portfolio. This is up from 13.2 million MWh, or 41.4% in June 2014, and 14.7 million MWh, or 43.9% during July 2013. July 2014 marked the second consecutive month in which natural gas made up a larger percentage of total fuel than coal.

Coal's share of July 2014 came in at 12.5 million MWh, or 36.5% of the total, which was up from the 10.6 million MWh and 33.4% during June 2014, but lower than the 12.7 million MWh and 37.8% during July 2013.

Third place during July went to nuclear, which at 3.7 million MWh accounted for 10.8% of the total.

Overall electric generation during July 2014 ran high. During the month, 34.4 million MWh were generated, which was higher than both the 31.8 million MWh generated during June, and the 33.6 million MWh during July 2013.

While natural gas posted its highest percentage year-to-date (YTD) in July with 44.6%, coal's YTD peak was recorded in February, when the fuel made up 41.5% of the total.

Which fuel will capture the title as the most used for full-year 2014 remains an open question. Natural gas lost a bit of ground in its share of the Texas power generation pie in 2013, according to ERCOT data (see Daily GPI, Jan. 17). Natural gas fueled 40.5% of the state's power generation in 2013, down from 44.6% in 2012; however, coal use increased to 37.2% from 33.8% in 2012. Nuclear dropped slightly to 11.6% from 11.8%; wind power grew to 9.9% from 9.2%. Hydro power stayed steady at 0.1% while "other" sources fell to 0.3% from 0.5%.

ERCOT manages the flow of electric power to 24 million Texas customers, representing 85% of the state's electric load. The ISO schedules power on an electric grid that connects more than 41,500 miles of transmission lines and 550 generation units. ERCOT's members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities and municipal-owned electric utilities.

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