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Latest EIA Data Shows More Evidence of Coal-to-Gas Shift

Natural gas again supplied the largest share of U.S. power generation in September, according to data published this week by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

September marked the third consecutive month that natural gas has fueled more electric generation than coal in the United States. Natural gas surpassed coal for the largest share of domestic power generation for the first time ever this spring, according to the EIA.

Domestic generators produced 123.2 million MWh from natural gas in September, 35% of total net generation for the month, according to the EIA. That’s compared to 118.5 million MWh generated from coal, or just under 34% of total generation.

The latest figures continue to point to a trend of coal-to-gas switching among electric utilities, encouraged by cheap gas prices and the potential implementation of federal carbon emissions limits on power plants (see Daily GPI, Oct. 28).

In September, gas consumption for electric generation rose 16% year/year to 934.5 Bcf, while coal consumption declined by 5.8% compared to the year-ago period. According to the EIA, electricity generation from coal decreased year/year in all regions of the country in September, while generation from gas increased in all regions. Nuclear generation also declined slightly year/year in the United States, down 1.6%.

The Henry Hub price averaged $2.72/MMBtu in September, 32.7% lower than the year-ago period, EIA said.

In October, EIA electricity analyst Tyler Hodge told NGI that the recent emergence of gas as the leading fuel source for electric generation is “signifying a general trend that we’ve been seeing over the last few years as the share of generation powered by coal has definitely been declining, and a lot of that has been picked up by natural gas” (see Daily GPI, Oct. 28).

The shift to gas has been driven primarily by low commodity prices, “which have been encouraging the (utility) industry to use more of their natural gas generating capacity,” Hodge said.

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