A Guest Post by Islandboy

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The EIA released the latest edition of their Electric Power Monthly on Jun 25th, with data for April 2018. The table above shows the percentage contribution of the main fuel sources to two decimal places for the last two months and the year to date.

In April, electricity produced from Coal was 73,489 Gwh representing 24.32% of the total. This is the third lowest amount over the period for which data is available, with only March and April of 2016 being lower, both in terms of the absolute amount of electricity produced and the percentage contribution to the total. The trend of more electricity being produced from Natural Gas than from Coal continued, with Natural Gas producing 33.09% of the total. In the thirty three months since July of 2015, only six months saw coal contributing more to the total than Natural Gas. Prior to April 2015, there had never been more electricity produced by Natural Gas than Coal in the US.

The absolute contribution from Solar continued to climb from it’s low in December rising from 7,513 GWh in March 8,833 to GWh, with the corresponding percentage contribution climbing to a new record of almost 3%, 2.92% as opposed to 2.35% in March. Nuclear power generated 59,087 GWh, 10.6% less than it did in March and despite the decrease in total generation, the percentage contribution to the total decreased to 19.55% from 20.95% in March. This year, the contribution from All Renewables outstripped Nuclear for the first time in April as opposed to March in 2017 with the decrease in the contribution from Nuclear by 1.4% as opposed to the increase in the contribution from All Renewables by 1.69%, resulting in a difference of 0.98%. The amount of electricity generated by Wind decreased by about 2%, (518 GWh) but, as a result of the decreased total generation, the percentage contribution actually increased from 8.53% to 8.85%. The contribution from Hydro increased 1,728 Gwh (7.68%) in absolute terms with the decrease in total generation resulting in the percentage contribution increasing to 9.14% from 8.09% in March. The combined contribution from Wind and Solar increased to 11.78% from 10.87% in March, the highest contribution from those two sources combined on record. Consequently the contribution from Non-Hydro Renewables also increased to 12.89% from 12.25% also a new record. The contribution of zero emission and carbon neutral sources, that is, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, landfill gas and other biomass increased to 41.58% from 41.3% in March and 0.17% short of the record 41.75% contribution set in April 2017.

The graph below helps to illustrate how the changes in absolute production affect the percentage contribution from the various sources.

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The chart below shows the total monthly generation at utility scale facilities by year versus the contribution from solar. The left hand scale is for the total generation, while the right hand scale is for solar output and has been deliberately set to exaggerate the solar output as a means of assessing it’s potential to make a meaningful contribution to the midsummer peak. The scale on the y axes has been adjusted to display TWh instead of Gwh as suggested by Dennis to make the comparison a little easier. In March 2018 the output from solar at 8,833 GWh, was 3.8 times what it was four years ago in April 2014. If the summer output continues to follow recent trends, close to 12,000 GWh should be generated in a single month some time this coming summer.

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The graph below shows the monthly capacity additions for 2018. In April Solar added 5.14 percent and and Natural Gas contributed 94.38 percent of new capacity for a joint contribution of 99.52 percent. No new capacity from Wind was registered in April. 10 MW of new capacity came from Batteries (0.2%) with another 6 MW (0.12%) coming Wood Waste Biomass and 1.9 MW (0.04%) coming from Petroleum Liquids. A new “Technology” appeared in the additions for April, “All Other”. On closer examination the plant in question was the new Cove Point LNG Terminal in Maryland. An internet search turned up an “Environmental Assessment for the Cove Point Liquefaction Project” that contains the following:

“The proposed facilities associated with the LNG Terminal include the following:

one LNG liquefaction train consisting of gas treatment equipment, natural gas fired turbine driven refrigerant compressors, waste heat recovery systems, fire and gas detection and safety systems, and control systems;

additional power generation including waste heat driven steam turbine generators and other electrical accessories to supplement the existing on site power generation”

This leads to the conclusion that this new category is in fact ultimately fueled by Natural Gas.

In April 2018 the total added capacity reported was 4,991.4 MW, almost sixty percent more than the 3,256.6 MW added in April 2017.

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The chart below shows the monthly capacity retirements so far for 2018. In April, like in January, almost all the retired capacity was coal fired. Of the 1193.3 MW of capacity that was retired, 99.56 percent (1188 MW) was a result of the retirement of two units at Wisconsin Electric Power Co.’s Pleasant Prairie facility. The remainder of the retirements, fueled by Petroleum Liquids, were the result of the retirement of two units totaling 700 kW in Alaska and a 4.6 MW unit in the City of Macon, Missouri.

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Following the report on the edition of the EPM with data for March, there was some discussion about coal consumption for the production of electricity. At the request of peakoilbarrel.com member Shyam, I am including a table of the top ten states in order of coal consumption for electricity production.

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The discussion about coal consumption data by state piqued my curiosity and I took some time to do a couple of time series charts by state for coal consumption, one for monthly consumption starting from January 2017 and the other for annual consumption starting from 2010. I could not find any data on coal consumption for electricity generation by state before 2010. I also did a monthly consumption chart by Census Division starting from January 2017. Apart from a general trend of declining coal use all around, I did not spot anything of particular interest from the charts. Since others may observe things that I might have missed, I am including the three charts below.

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