2012 Operating Performance

Natural Gas Continues to Displace Coal

by Teresa Hansen, editor in chief

The 2012 power plant operating performance report reveals the continuation of a trend: Coal-fired capacity is losing out to natural gas. Last year Electric Light & Power reported that the total amount of electricity generated by all Energy Information Administration (EIA)-reporting coal-fired plants dropped some 4 percent from 2010 to 2011. That number was roughly 13 percent from 2011 to 2012, dropping the amount of electricity generated by all reporting coal-fired plants to just more than 1.5 million GWh. This decrease in coal-fired plant generation is the result of plants’ being retired because they can’t afford to meet environmental regulations and because many coal-fired plants are falling behind gas-fired plants on the dispatch list. Gas-fired combined-cycle plants that burn cheap natural gas are displacing coal-fired plants.

“Coal displacement is a big story. The coal plants on the 2012 top operating lists aren’t the ones being displaced, but many of the little guys are falling by the wayside,” said Tom Hewson, principal at Arlington, Va.,-based Energy Ventures Analysis Inc. “All the low-cost solutions for reducing coal-fired emissions have been implemented. The only low-cost solution left is fuel switching. The country, therefore, lost a lot of coal generation due to displacement by natural gas.”

Ameren Corp.’s Callaway Nuclear Generating Station near Fulton, Mo., had a capacity factor of 100.4 percent, putting it at the top of the U.S. nuclear power plant capacity factor ranking. Photo Courtesy Ameren Corp.

Last year’s power plant performance report revealed that gas-fired combined-cycle plants generated more electricity in 2011 than 2010, and this year’s report shows that trend is growing. The total amount of electricity generated by all EIA-reporting gas-fired combined-cycle power plants rose 24 percent from 2011 to 2012 to 972,131 GWh.

“The rise in natural gas generation is not because of load growth or higher demand for electricity,” Hewson said. “It is due to displacement of coal.”

Energy Ventures Analysis specializes in energy and environmental market analysis and has compiled the data for this industry report from Form EIA 906 “Power Plant Report” form for many years. The tables in this report are mostly self-explanatory, but a few observations follow.

To view the article in its entirety, including all tables, please click here.

To compare the 2012 report to previous years, visit www.elp.com, select “Current Issues” and then select “Past Issues.”

More Electric Light & Power Current Issue Articles
More Electric Light & Power Archives Issue Articles

Previous articleRestructuring a Challenged Business Model–How Will Electric Utilities Survive?
Next articleIkea plugs in four electric vehicle charging stations in Atlanta

No posts to display