Preliminary electric power data show that, for the first time since the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) began collecting the data, electricity generation from natural gas-fired plants is virtually equal to generation from coal-fired plants, with each fuel providing 32% of total generation.
In April 2012, preliminary data show net electric generation from natural gas was 95.9 million megawatt-hours, only slightly below generation from coal, at 96.0 million megawatt-hours.
|US monthly net power generation. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.|
The 2011 and 2012 data shown above are preliminary and are subject to change (final 2011 data will be released this fall, and 2012 data will be revised at that time). Preliminary data are derived from a survey of a sample of large power plants, and final data come from a census of all power plants. For 2010, the difference between preliminary and final net generation data from all sources was 0.1%.
There are strong seasonal trends in the overall demand for electric power. With warmer summer weather and increased electric demand for air conditioning, demand will increase, requiring increased output from both coal- and natural gas-fired generators.
The mix of fuels used to generate electricity—and specifically the competition between natural gas and coal—is dependent on several factors, EIA notes: decreasing coal share of generation, increasing coal stockpiles, rising coal exports, effect of natural gas prices, and natural gas consumption by sector.