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EIA's Electric Power Monthly - March 2018 Edition With Data For January 2018

by: Ron Patterson

By Islandboy

The EIA released the latest edition of their Electric Power Monthly on March 23rd, with data for January 2018. The table above shows the percentage contribution of the main fuel sources to two decimal places for the last two months.

The winter solstice occurred around the 21st of December; so, the absolute contribution from Solar remained much lower in January than in the summer months but, rose slightly from 4536 GWh in December to 4917 GWh, with the corresponding percentage contribution remaining almost the same at 1.32% as opposed to 1.31% in December. Nuclear generated 74649 Gwh, 1.3% more than it did it December but the increase in total generation resulted in the percentage contribution to the total declining to 20% from 21.3% in December. The gap between the contribution from All Renewables and Nuclear started to narrow in January with the 1.3% decreased contribution from Nuclear as opposed to the the 0.74% increase in the contribution from All Renewables resulting in a difference of 3.25%. The amount of electricity generated by Wind increased by about 18%, (4058 GWh) resulting in the percentage contribution increasing from 6.51% to 7.19%. The contribution from Hydro increased 2915 Gwh (13%) in absolute terms with the increase in total generation resulting in the percentage contribution increasing only slightly by 0.3%. The combined contribution from Wind and Solar increased to 8.51% from 7.9% in December and the contribution from Non-Hydro Renewables also increased to 9.94% from 9.5%. The contribution of zero emission and carbon neutral sources, that is, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, geothermal, landfill gas and other biomass decreased to 36.75% from 37.32% in December.

2016 and 2017 only saw a slight uptick in the use of Petroleum Liquids for electricity generation unlike previous years when the use of Petroleum Liquids jumped by up to 1% in either January or February compared to the typical levels for the rest of the year. The unusually cold weather in January 2018 resulted in significant uptick (1%) in the use of Petroleum Liquids similar to that seen in the years prior to 2016.

The graph below helps to illustrate how the changes in absolute production affect the percentage contribution from the various sources.

The chart below shows the total monthly generation at utility scale facilities by year versus the contribution from solar. The left hand scale is for the total generation, while the right hand scale is for solar output and has been deliberately set to exaggerate the solar output as a means of assessing its potential to make a meaningful contribution to the midsummer peak. In January 2018, the output from solar was 4917 Gwh, 3.8 times what it was four years ago in January 2014. If the summer output follows recent trends, more than 11,000 GWh should be generated in a single month some time this coming summer.


The graph below shows the monthly capacity additions for 2018. I have changed the format of the chart so as to reduce the amount of changes I have to make to the source table each month. By putting the year to date figures at the bottom of the table, when I fill in the data for each month, the Year to Date figures will be updated without any input from me. In January 1.18 percent of capacity additions were Natural Gas. Solar added 45.97 percent and Wind contributed 50.72 percent of new capacity for a joint contribution of 96.69 percent. Batteries had a relatively minor capacity addition of 0.62 percent, 1 percent of capacity additions were Geothermal and capacity addition fueled by Petroleum Liquids amounted to 0.51 percent. In January 2018, the total added capacity reported was 1598.3 MW, roughly 150 MW more than January 2017.

The chart below shows the capacity retirements for January 2018 with the same format changes as the chart above for the same reason. 99.93 percent of the retirements were Coal fired plants (4317 MW), 0.02 percent were fueled by Natural Gas (1 MW), 0.01 percent were fueled by Petroleum Liquids (0.5 MW) and 0.03 percent of the capacity retirements came from Landfill Gas (103.8 MW). Note that the left side Y-axis scale had to start at 99/88% for the retirements from sources other than coal to be visible in a meaningful way. If I set the scale to start at zero percent the other sources would not be visible at all.

2018 has not started well for fossil fuel interests in the electricity generating sector, especially for coal with 99.93 percent of retirements for first month. Other fossil fuel interests have nothing to celebrate with only 1.69 percent of new capacity using fossil fuels.