Net generation in the U.S. was up 0.8 percent from January 2010 to January 2011, according to the Energy Information Administration. Coal-fired generators showed the largest fuel-specific decline over the period as coal-fired generation was down 1.3 percent. Conventional hydroelectric generation saw the largest absolute "fuel-specific" increase as generation was up 16.2 percent.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the average January temperature across the contiguous United States was the lowest since 1994, breaking a string of warm or near normal Januaries. As a result, heating degree days were 4.3 percent higher than normal January level. The Federal Reserve reported that industrial production was 5.2 percent higher than it had been in January 2010, the thirteenth consecutive month that industrial production was higher than in the corresponding months of the previous year.
The rise in conventional hydroelectric generation was the largest absolute "fuel-specific" increase as generation was up 3,590 thousand megawatthours, or 16.2 percent. The largest rises were in Washington, California and Oregon. NOAA reports that many locations in the west lost snow during what was a dry January. The drop in snowpack in California was characterized as "significant." The next largest increase was in wind generation, up 27.6 percent or 1,923 thousand megawatthours. Washington, Wyoming and Colorado showed the largest increases. The higher total in Wyoming is primarily due to generation from the Top of the World and Dunlap facilities, which came online in October 2010.
Coal-fired generators showed the largest fuel-specific decline from January 2010 to January 2011. Generation was down 2,259 thousand megawatthours, or 1.3 percent. The drops in West Virginia and Florida accounted for 76.3 percent of the national decline in coal-fired generation.
Lower petroleum liquid-fired generation accounted for the second-largest fuel-specific drop as it was down 1,331 thousand megawatthours or 42.0 percent. Declines in petroleum liquid-fired generation in Florida were by far the largest in the Nation as temperatures in the Sunshine State were more moderate than they had been in January 2010 and demand for electricity from Florida generators was lower.
In January, coal-fired plants contributed 47.1 percent of the power generated in the United States. Natural gas-fired plants contributed 20.4 percent, and nuclear plants contributed 20.0 percent. Conventional hydroelectric sources provided 7.1 percent of the total, while other renewables (biomass, geothermal, solar and wind) and other miscellaneous energy sources generated the remaining 4.5 percent of electric power.
Coal consumption for electric power generation in January 2011 was down 0.5 percent compared to January 2010. Consumption of natural gas fell 0.8 percent. For the same time period, consumption of petroleum liquids was down 42.0 percent, while petroleum coke was up 20.1 percent.
Total electric power sector coal stocks decreased between January 2010 and January 2011 by 7.3 percent, or 13.0 million tons. January was the ninth consecutive month that total coal stocks were lower than the same month in the prior year after 20 consecutive months where they were higher. Stocks of bituminous coal fell 11.4 percent or 9.8 million tons between January 2010 and January 2011 (from 86.3 million tons to 76.4 million tons). Subbituminous coal stocks fell 5.4 percent over the same period (from 87.0 to 82.3 million tons).
The average price paid for coal in January 2011 was $2.34 per MMBtu. That was up 4.9 percent from the average price of $2.23 per MMBtu paid in December 2010. It also was up 5.4 percent from the average price of $2.22 per MMBtu paid in January 2010. Receipts of coal in January 2011 were 80.8 million tons, down 2.1 percent when compared with December 2010 (82.5 million tons). It was up 4.5 percent when compared with January 2010 receipts (77.3 million tons).
The average price paid for natural gas in January 2011 was $5.37 per MMBtu. That was down 0.7 percent from the average price of $5.41 per MMBtu paid in December 2010. It also was down 19.9 percent from the average price of $6.70 per MMBtu paid in January 2010. Receipts of natural gas in January 2011 were 658.9 million Mcf, down 2.2 percent when compared with December 2010 (673.5 million Mcf). It was up 0.6 percent when compared with January 2010 receipts (654.7 million Mcf).
Read more news and features on the business of power generation.