Electricity generation in the United States fell 4.1 percent in 2009, the biggest drop in 60 years, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The survey offers a snapshot of the impact the recession had on energy markets and shifts in the power supply as coal costs rose and natural gas prices plummeted. Industrial demand for electricity, for instance, dropped by 9.1 percent in 2009 to the lowest level in 22 years.
Expectations that Congress would pass legislation to impose a cap on greenhouse gas emissions may have also encouraged a move away from carbon-intensive electricity production, the report stated.
Electricity produced from coal-fired power plants fell by 11.6 percent in 2009 from the previous year while generation from natural gas increased by 4.3 percent, according to the report.
“In 2009, annual average natural gas wellhead prices reached their lowest level in seven years,” the report said. “Increased supply due to the availability of shale gas, coupled with mild winter temperatures and higher production, and storage levels, and significant expansions of pipelines capacity also worked to put downward pressure on natural gas prices.”
As Southeastern states switched to natural gas, coal’s share of the nation’s electricity production fell to its lowest level since 1978.
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