DOE: US electric demand up sharply

Electricity demand grew sharply during the first 4 months of this year, the Department of Energy reported Tuesday. Natural gas continues to gain ground as a fuel to generate electricity, especially among nonutility generators, the agency says.


Electricity demand grew sharply during the first 4 months of this year, the Department of Energy reported Tuesday. Total US net generation was 1,189 billion kw-hr, up 3% from the corresponding period in 1999.

With 52% of the electricity produced by coal-fired plants, coal is maintaining its traditional position as the leading fuel in power production. But the report shows natural gas continues to gain ground as a fuel to generate electricity, especially among nonutility generators.

Nuclear represented 21%; natural gas, 14%; renewable energy, 11%; and petroleum-fired plants, 2% of US electric capacity during the first 4 months of this year. DOE statistics showed natural gas gained the most, up 11%, compared to a year ago, while nuclear was up 7%, and coal increased by 5%.

During the first 4 months of the year, generation from renewable energy fell 11%, and petroleum was down 35%,from the amount reported for the same period a year ago.

During April, total US net generation of electricity was 279 billion kw-hr, up 1% from April 1999. Electric utilities generated 227 billion kw-hr or 81% of the total, while nonutility power producers generated 52 billion kw-hr or 19% of total generation.

At utilities, coal accounted for 64% of net generation, compared to nonutilities, which relied on natural gas for 79% of their total generation.

Compared to April 1999, sales of electricity in the commercial sector were up 2%. Residential use fell 2% compared to a year ago. Industrial sector sales were also down by 1%, compared with April 1999.

While the sale and reclassification of utility plants to nonutility producers reduced fuel oil receipts compared to March 1999, a substantial portion of this decrease was due to the recent large increases in the cost of fuel oil, the DOE said.

The average delivered cost of fuel oil in March 2000 was $4.03/MMbtu, up from $1.81/MMbtu reported in March 1999. This price was considerably above the cost of natural gas, making petroleum much less competitive as the fuel of choice for electric generation, it said.

Receipts of gas totaled 191 bcf, up from 187 bcf reported in March 1999. The average cost of gas delivered to electric utilities was $2.93/MMbtu, the DOE said, compared to $2.12/MMbtu reported in March 1999.

The DOE reported the sale and reclassification of electric plants is having a substantial affect on collection of gas data in New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and Pacific regions, as well as at the national level.

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