January 10, 2017 Read More →

U.S. Drop in Coal Usage Exceeds Expectations Envisioned in EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Annalee Grant for SNL:

In proposing the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. EPA envisioned a future in which coal was still king among generation fuels until at least 2020. But the actual generation mix for 2015 shows a present in which natural gas has stolen coal’s crown five years before the carbon-cutting rule for fossil fuel power plants was ever expected to go into effect.

As it turns out, the power industry has significantly reduced coal-fired generation as of 2015, according to data from SNL Energy. That achievement is due, at least in part, to low natural gas prices and increasingly inexpensive renewable generation technologies. In fact, coal that year slipped below the EPA’s 2020 base case prediction by 122,000 GWh, while gas added about 139,000 GWh over what the EPA said would occur in 2020 absent the Clean Power Plan.

Looking at the EPA’s two compliance scenarios, the decline in coal-fired generation in 2015 also exceeded predictions for 2020. The agency foresaw coal being responsible for just under 1.38 million GWh in 2020 under a rate-based scenario and slightly over 1.36 million under a mass-based scenario. In 2015, coal accounted for just under 1.33 million GWh, while gas generated slightly under 1.35 million GWh, according to SNL Energy.

Natural gas exceeded coal as the top generation fuel for the first time in April 2015. The U.S. Energy Information Administration in May 2016 predicted that natural gas and renewables will permanently surpass coal generation by the mid- and late-2020s, respectively. According to a November 2016 update from the EIA, gas accounted for 36% of the total electricity generated in the U.S. compared to 31% from coal during the first half of that year. But coal is likely to reclaim its throne this winter, surpassing natural gas again as the top generation fuel, the update said.

Full article, with charts ($): Coal generation drop in 2015 beats EPA’s Clean Power Plan expectations

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