Gas Blew Away Coal


Gas now pulling way ahead in electric generation, coal’s lead razor-thin for the year

Today in Fortnightly

Energy Department data through November 2015 was released last week. It’s stunning how far coal has fallen. 

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In November, coal’s share of the nation’s electricity generation fell to 29 percent. That’s right, a number starting with a 2. 

The gas share was 34 percent. Not bad, though the four zero emission technologies (nuclear, wind, hydro and solar) also had a 34 percent share when added together. 

The US electricity sector likely hasn’t emitted so little carbon dioxide in a month since the 1990’s. I need to do the calculations to see when emissions were this low. Look for the answer in an upcoming column of mine.

Of the generation that was zero-emission in November, 59 percent was by nuclear, 19 percent was by wind, 19 percent was also by hydro, and the remaining 3 percent was by solar. For solar, we counted both utility-scale and distributed generation solar. Of the 3 percent by solar, 2 percent was by utility-scale solar.

For the year 2015, through November, coal had a 34 percent share and gas a 33 percent share. Though the two generation technologies are neck and neck, coal should squeak out a photo finish win even with a flagging December.

For the year through November, the four zero emission technologies had a 31 share when added together. While not as large a share as in the month of November alone, it’s just short of the two fossil fuel technologies.

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The gas share has now exceeded the coal share during each of the last five months, July through November. This is a remarkable turn of events. Gas first beat coal in April. Before that, coal had been the leader for as long as anyone can remember.

The February issue of Public Utilities Fortnightly will be out in a few days. We expect you all will be stunned by the changes and agree with us, it’s our best issue since the 1990’s.


Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly
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