September 27, 2018 Read More →

Utility coal consumption continues downward spiral

Reuters:

Despite political support from the White House, U.S. coal consumption continues to fall, as power producers shutter coal-fired units in favor of cheaper and more flexible natural gas as well as solar and wind.

Electric power producers’ coal consumption fell to 298 million short tons in the first half of 2018, down from 312 million in the same period in 2017, marginally below 2016, and the lowest since 1983.

U.S. power producers generated almost 6 percent less electricity from coal in the first half of the year even as total generation rose almost 5 percent and gas-fired generation was up 17 percent. Coal-fired generation declined by 32 billion kilowatt hours in the first six months, while gas-fired generation rose by 89 billion, nuclear was up by 16 billion, solar rose 7 billion and wind was up by 15 billion.

Generators continued to close coal units, with coal-fired generating capacity down to 246 gigawatts at the end of June 2018, compared with 262 gigawatts in June 2017 and 273 gigawatts in June 2016.

Remaining coal units are being run for fewer hours and/or at lower rates than last year, another indication they are struggling to compete with cheap natural gas. Capacity utilization at the remaining coal-fired units was at or below prior-year levels in six of the first seven months in 2018 (“Electric Power Monthly”, Energy Information Administration, September 2018).

Another 9 gigawatts of coal-fired generation capacity are scheduled to close before the end of 2020, so coal consumption is unlikely to rise and will probably continue to decline in the next few years.

More: U.S. power producers’ coal consumption falls to 35-year low: Kemp

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