By Teresa Hansen
This issue of Electric Light & Power has included the power plant operating performance rankings for more than 15 years. It is one of the best-read and most anticipated articles of the year. I’ve written the report for the past six years. Although sorting through the data can be tedious, I enjoy it. I learn a lot from studying the tables and my interview with Tom Hewson, who supplies the data.
Tom, principal at Energy Ventures Analysis Inc., has provided the data for this report since 2002, so I’m confident that for a dozen years we’ve compared “apples to apples.”
If you read my editorial in the most recent issue, you know I questioned whether coal’s death is looming. After interviewing Tom and reviewing the data he provided, I continue to ask that question.
Coal-fired electricity remains the largest source in the U.S. generation capacity mix, but natural gas is closing in on it. As you’ll read in the performance rankings article beginning on Page 14, gas-fired generation was up 24 percent from 2011 to 2012, and coal-fired generation was down more than 6 percent for the same period.
All reporting coal plants generated nearly 1.5 million GWh of electricity in 2012 while all reporting natural gas-fired plants generated just more than 970,000 GWh.
In comparison, in 2007 before the recession hit electricity demand, total coal generation was nearly 2 million GWh, and gas generation was about 680,000 GWh.
The data reported in this issue lag a year because of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) reporting deadlines. If you consider the continuation of low natural gas prices and lofty renewable portfolio standards in some parts of the country, as well as slow growth in electricity demand in 2013, it’s likely that the 2013 data, which will be presented this time next year, will show this trend is continuing.
The power plant performance article also covers nuclear power generation and capacity factor performance, along with capacity factor and heat rate performance for coal- and gas-fired power plants. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Another article that has been appearing in this issue for many years is our interview with the CEO of Electric Light & Power‘s Utility of the Year.
This year, the editorial staff is happy to present the award to PPL Corp. You should enjoy reading Senior Editor Kristen Wright’s interview with William H. Spence, PPL Corp.’s chairman, president and CEO.
You’ll learn how the utility used its experience with Hurricane Irene to prepare for and improve its response to Hurricane Sandy, which helped it score high in the 2013 J.D. Power Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study for power quality and reliability.
In addition, you’ll discover how the utility’s diversification into the United Kingdom has led to additional revenue. After you read the interview, I think you’ll agree that PPL was a good pick for the 2013 Utility of the Year.
Although it hasn’t been around as long as the others I mention, another tradition at Electric Light & Power at this time of the year is preparation for our annual Electric Light & Power Executive Conference, which is co-located with DistribuTECH, PennWell’s large annual transmission and distribution conference and exhibition.
If you haven’t already done so, please take a look at the conference website (www.elpconference.com) to get all the details. Once you do, I think you’ll want to add it to your 2014 calendar.
Enjoy this issue, and I’ll see you in San Antonio on Jan. 27 at the executive conference.
Teresa Hansen, editor in chief