Record High Sales, Record Low Coal

Released March 6:

As we’ve been predicting since last summer, residential electric sales set the record high in 2018. 

Residential sales rose 6.2 percent from 2017 to 2018, the largest year-to-year increase this century. This increase drove residential sales to 1,464 million megawatt-hours, 1.3 percent higher than the previous record in 2010.

Commercial sales also rose, considerably, 1.8 percent from 2017 to 2018. That set the record high for commercial sales. 

Total sales, to all customer segments, were up 2.1 percent. That set the record high for total sales. The total would have been greater, but for a further drop in industrial sales, by 3.2 percent.

The U.S. Energy Department published detailed data last week as well on the grid’s generation mix in 2018. Notably, coal-fired generation fell 4.9 percent from 2017, to 1,146 million megawatt-hours and just 27.4 percent of total generation (a little bit over a quarter). That’s a record low. As recently as 2007, coal generation was 2,016 million megawatt-hours and 49 percent of total generation (about half).

The first largest slice of the grid’s generation mix in 2018 was natural gas-fired, at 35.1 percent (a little bit over a third). Placing third, fourth and fifth after coal were nuclear power, 19.3 percent, hydro power, 7 percent, and wind power, 6.6 percent.