At the beginning of this year compared to the same period a year earlier, wind and hydroelectric power supplies increased, natural gas use was flat and coal-fired generation was down markedly, according to the latest report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Net U.S. electric generation in February, the most recent month for completed data collection, was down 2.1% compared to February 2010, despite reports from the Federal Reserve that industrial production was 5.6% higher than it was in February last year. There have now been 14 consecutive months in which industrial production increased compared to the same month a year earlier.

EIA said natural gas-fired generation increased “fractionally,” while wind generation had the largest absolute “fuel-specific” increase at 4,821 MWh, or 87.8%. All but one of 37 states with wind generation facilities increased production. Above-normal water levels in the Pacific Northwest pushed the amount of hydroelectric supplies up month over month.

“Coal-fired generation showed by far the largest fuel-specific decline from February 2010 to February this year as its electricity output was down 14,483 MWh, or 9.5%,” EIA said. In a separate EIA statistical report, the cost of coal for electricity generators was up 0.9% and the cost of natural gas down 5.2% compared to their levels in January this year, while the receipts of the two power generation fuels both declined by 9.9% and 11.4%, respectively (January versus February this year).

EIA said the generation fuel mix to date in 2011 is 20.6% natural gas; 45.9% from coal; 20.4% from nuclear; 7.4% from conventional hydroelectric; 4.9% from renewables; and 0.8% from petroleum, petroleum liquids and coke.

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