Canadian Biomass Magazine

Coal power generation surges ahead in US

February 12, 2013
By Scott Jamieson

February 12, 2013, Louisville, KY – According to energy monitoring company Genscape, coal-based power generation surged ahead in the first month of 2013 versus last year, a result of higher gas prices, lower renewable use and higher demand.

Genscape, a company specializing in the research, development, and deployment of patented in-the-field energy infrastructure monitoring systems, reports today that January 2013 coal-fired power generation surged 8.9% above January 2012 levels.

This increase to 140,080 GWH resulted from higher demand for electricity, higher gas prices, and lower levels of generation from nuclear plants and renewable technologies.

Power demand started out 2013 up 3.2% to 350,554 GWh versus January 2012 levels.  The primary driver of the increase was the late January cold-snap experienced the week of the 21st.  Overall the weather pattern averaged out to slightly warmer than average for the month, but the cold snap at the end of the month featured temperatures that were as much as 20 degrees colder than average in some areas which helped to drive very strong heating load.

Both coal and gas-fired generation supplied the additional power needed for this increased demand with gas increasing its output by 1.7% over January 2012 levels to 94,396 GWh.  Coal and gas had equal power sector output levels in April of last year.  Coal has since recovered ground and accounted for 40% of power sector output in January while gas captured 27% of the market.  This represented a 2.1 percentage point increase for coal’s percentage of overall generation in comparison to January of last year.


Nuclear output had a down month – decreasing nearly 2% from 2012 – with the Fermi plant in Michigan continuing to run at a de-rate and an unplanned 6 day outage at First Energy’s Perry unit in Ohio. Higher gas prices are the final factor helping to push up coal’s share of the total market.  On a relative price basis Henry Hub gas was up 24% compared to last January while delivered CAPP, CSX, and PRB coal prices were estimated by Genscape to be 5-9% lower than in January 2012.

Over the past decade, Genscape has strategically deployed thousands of patented and proprietary real-time energy monitors throughout the United States.  Utilizing the data from these monitors, Genscape has developed a bottom-up approach that uses hard data – not surveys or estimates – to predict total US fuel consumption in close to real-time, and today announces the launch of its new Generation Fuel Monitor Service.

Genscape’s new Generation Fuel Monitor Service delivers estimates with a high degree of accuracy 3 months before the actual data becomes available from the US Energy Information Administration.  “This represents a new era in power generation fuel analytics,” says Stephen Maestranzi, director of publications at Genscape. “The level of accuracy and advance notice to EIA data is truly remarkable.”

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