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These 3 Charts Show the Current State of U.S. Electricity Generation

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It's no secret that the U.S. generation mix is changing.

Natural gas and renewables continue to have a growing impact on U.S. power generation. 

These three recent charts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) help shed light on the current state of U.S. electricity generation. 

1. Monthly Electricity Generation from Renewables Continues to Rise

In March and April, and for the first time since 1984, renewables topped nuclear power in monthly electricity generation. 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

According to EIA, a range of factors contributed to the temporary displacement of nuclear power, including: record output from solar and wind resources, increases in hydroelectric power output due to high levels of precipitation across the western United States and maintenance/refueling schedules for nuclear power plants.

Despite the shift in March and April, EIA expects nuclear power will still generate more electricity than renewables this summer and in 2017. 

2. Natural Gas and Coal Continue to Compete

In 2016, natural gas surpassed coal-fired generation for the first-time ever, with natural gas providing 34 percent and coal serving 30 percent of U.S. electricity demand. However, it's a slightly different story this year. In the first four months of 2017, the EIA reports coal served 30 percent and natural gas 28 percent of utility-scale electricity generation. The chart below compares monthly electricity generation from both fuels since 2013. 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

According to EIA’s latest Short-Term Energy Outlook, natural gas and coal are both expected to provide 31 percent of the U.S. electricity generation in 2017. 

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3. Fossil Fuels Still Serve the Bulk of U.S. Consumption and Generation

In 2016, the renewables share of U.S. energy consumption hit 10.5 percent, which was the highest since the 1930s. Despite the significant growth in renewables consumption, fossil fuels still accounted for a whopping 81 percent of total U.S. energy consumption. 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

While the chart focuses on U.S. energy consumption more broadly, it still highlights an important story related to U.S. power generation. The overall decline in fossil fuel consumption is largely attributable to the decline of coal use in power generation In the last 20 years, the power sector has accounted for more than 90 percent of total U.S. coal consumption. However, with significant changes in power generation, U.S. coal consumption has fallen about 38 percent since 2005. 

Looking to keep up with the latest electricity and natural gas trends? We regularly track and report on the latest market trends here. Our most recent Energy Market Update video highlights the factors that could impact longer term NYMEX natural gas prices. 

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Posted: August 11, 2017