Hydroelectric power generation by U.S. electric utilities increased 12 percent between 1995 and 1996, according to the latest publication by the DOE's Energy Information Administration. Hydro generation contrasted with output at gas-fired units. That dropped 15 percent to 263 billion kilowatt-hours (em the lowest level since 1993 (em partly due to a substantial increase in gas prices.
According to Electric Power Annual 1996 Volume 1, the average cost of gas delivered to electric utilities on a dollars-per-million-Btu basis was $2.64 in 1996, the highest since 1985. In 1995, the average cost was $1.98, the lowest since 1979. The increased hydroelectric output was due to improved water conditions in the Pacific Northwest from heavy rain and snow in the winter. Also, meltdown of mountain snow packs in spring and summer, and sustained reservoir levels for hydroelectric generation. Capability at hydro facilities remained constant.
Coal provided 57 percent of utility generation, or 1,737 billion kWh. A record 863 million short tons of coal were delivered to electric utilities, 36 million more than in 1995. That growth, along with increased hydro output, largely offset the drop in natural gas use at utilities and helped meet higher electric demand. The average cost of coal dropped from $1.32 to $1.29 per million Btu. That continues the drop of the past 11 years. Nuclear plants provided 675 billion kWh of electricity.
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