By December 5, 2017 Read More →

Natural gas power generation share grew for decade in Southern states as coal declined


Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly, Southern

 Texas and Oklahoma in region with some of country’s best wind resources

Coal’s share of total electricity generation in the South declined over the past decade, from 50 per cent in 2006 to 29 per cent in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.As the use of coal has declined, the use of natural gas has increased. In 2016, southern states used natural gas for 42 per cent of their electricity generation, a bigger share than the U.S. average of 34 per cent.

The mix of fuels used to generate electricity varies among southern states, but the overall mix is dominated by natural gas and coal.

At the state level, natural gas made up as much as 89 per cent of in-state electricity generation in Delaware to as little as 2 per cent in West Virginia.

electric semi-truck

Competition between the fuels for electricity generation has resulted in U.S. net generation of electricity from natural gas surpassing coal for the first time in 2016.

For the South as a whole, natural gas surpassed coal for electricity generation in 2012, 2015, and 2016.

graph of electricity generation in selected regions, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly

Within the South, the share of natural gas used for electric generation in the West South Central census division—which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas—has been larger than the share of coal for more than a decade.

In the East South Central division, which includes Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee, coal-fired electricity generation remains higher than natural gas-fired generation, although the difference has narrowed.

In the South Atlantic division, which includes West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware and extends along the Atlantic Ocean to Florida, natural gas first surpassed coal used for electricity generation in 2015.

graph of coal-fired and natural gas-fired electricity generation in selected regions, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly

Most Southern states that use coal for the largest share of their electricity generation are part of the Northern or Central Appalachian basins, two of five major coal mining regions in the United States.

West Virginia and Kentucky are among the top five coal mining states, and both states use coal for most of their electricity generation—94 per cent and 83 per cent, respectively. Tennessee, Arkansas, and Maryland also used more coal (37 per cent–39 per cent) than the national average of 30 per cent in 2016.


More coal-fired generating units were retired in the South between 2006 and 2016 than units fueled by any other fuel type, with 20.8 gigawatts (GW) of capacity taken offline during that period.

Although 9.6 GW of coal capacity was added between 2007 and 2013, no coal units have been installed since 2013.

New installed capacity in the region came primarily from natural gas and wind, with an additional 47.0 GW and 25.6 GW installed, respectively, between 2006 and 2017.

graph of changes in electricity generating capacity in South census region, as explained in the article text

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory Note: 2017 values are preliminary.

Wind additions in the South have been concentrated in Texas and Oklahoma, which ranked first and third nationally for total installed wind capacity as of Sept. 2017.

Texas and Oklahoma are in a region with some of the country’s best wind resources.

The South is home to both the newest nuclear power generator (Watts Bar Unit 2 in Tennessee) and the only new nuclear plant still under construction (the Vogtle plant in Georgia).

Earlier this year, construction of the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina was canceled.

Posted in: USA

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