Natural gas use in power generation has risen significantly this summer because of weather-driven demand for air conditioning and rock-bottom natural gas prices, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said.

Citing figures from Bentek Energy LLC, the agency noted that daily natural gas use to produce electric power (also called power burn) has averaged 26.3 Bcf/d so far this year (Jan. 1 - Aug. 15), up 24% compared to the same period in 2011.

Bentek said 17 of the 25 highest days of power burn since it began estimating power burn in 2005 occurred between June 28 and Aug. 9 this summer, the EIA noted.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the warmest first half of the year since 1895 in 28 states, and that heat continued in July and August (see Daily GPI, Aug. 9). U.S. population-weighted cooling degree days (CDDs), a measure of cooling requirements, averaged 26% higher than the 30-year average between Jan. 1 and Aug. 15, and has been consistently above average for most of the year.

In April EIA reported that monthly shares of coal- and gas-fired generation were equal for the first time. This was due to several factors, including:

Regionally, CDDs in the Midwest , where hot, dry weather was particularly severe, have been 59% above their 30-year average, with the Northeast, South and West at 43%, 18% and 14%, respectively, above their corresponding averages, the EIA said.

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