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20 Gigawatts of New Natural Gas Generated Electricity Coming in 2018

natural gas now - Tom Shepstone ReportsTom Shepstone
Shepstone Management Company, Inc.

Today In Energy reports some 20 gigawatts of new natural gas generated electricity is being added in 2018, with almost a third being built in Pennsylvania.

The shale revolution continues! Rural economic development. Cheap energy for urban America. Clean air for places such as New York City. Reduced emissions of just about everything. New manufacturing jobs. New STEM jobs. New natural gas infrastructure for small towns. Opportunities everywhere. All of this is brought home by a Today In Energy article from last week announcing some otherwise mundane news on natural gas generated electricity.

natural gas generated electricity

One of Panda Power’s new natural gas generating plants in Pennsylvania

Here’s the money paragraph from the article (emphasis added):

Power plant operators are scheduled to bring 20 gigawatts (GW) of new natural-gas fired generating capacity online in 2018, which, if realized, would be the largest increase in natural gas capacity since 2004. Almost 6 GW of the capacity additions are being built in Pennsylvania, and more than 2 GW are being built in Texas. In contrast, about 13 GW of coal-fired capacity are scheduled to be retired in 2018. These changes in the generating capacity mix contribute to the continuing switch from coal to natural gas, especially in southern and midwestern states.

The fact nearly one-third of this new natural gas generated electricity is being built in Pennsylvania is, of course, a direct result of the shale revolution, which brought Marcellus Shale gas to market, disrupting everything in the best possible way. It allowed old coal-fired plants to be closed or converted, while adding tremendous capacity to produce much cleaner natural gas generated electricity.

And, the numbers are staggering. Twenty gigawatts of natural gas generated electricity capacity, assuming a capacity factor of 65% can be expected to yield 13 gigawatts of actual electricity, enough, under the most conservative assumptions, to serve roughly four million homes and perhaps twice that. Looked at another way, 13 gigawatts is 26,000 times as much a 10 acre solar farm yielding a net of one-half megawatt of electricity (often when not needed and at significantly higher costs to ratepayers and taxpayers). It would, therefore, require a minimum of 260,000 acres of land to produce the same electricity with solar, plus the natural gas generated electricity would still be needed as backup for when the sun doesn’t shine.

This is why natural gas generated electricity is growing so fast. Here’s more from Today In Energy:

EIA’s January 2018 Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO) forecasts that natural gas will remain the primary source of U.S. electricity generation for at least the next two years. The share of total electricity supplied by natural gas-fired power plants is expected to average 33% in 2018 and 34% in 2019, up from 32% in 2017. EIA expects the share of generation from coal, which had been the predominant electricity generation fuel for decades, to average 30% in 2018 and 28% in 2019, compared with 30% in 2017.

Natural gas generated electricity

The mix of energy sources used for producing electricity generation continues to shift in response to changes in fuel costs and the development of renewable energy technologies. Since 2015, the cost of natural gas delivered to electric generators has generally averaged $3.50 per million British thermal units (Btu) or less, and it is expected to remain near this level through 2019…

EIA expects the cost of natural gas for electricity generation to remain relatively competitive with coal-fired electricity over the next two years. The average cost of natural gas delivered to generators in 2018 is forecast to fall 2%, while the forecast delivered cost of coal rises 5%. These relative price changes should increase the share of natural gas generation in 2018. The costs of both natural gas and coal in 2019 are expected to remain relatively unchanged from this year’s forecast prices…

natural gas generated electricity

Compared with the rest of the country, the use of natural gas for electricity generation is not expected to increase as much in the West, where natural gas largely competes with hydropower. EIA expects the natural gas generation share in the West region to rise from 27% in 2017 to 29% in 2018, primarily as a result of a decline of the region’s hydropower generation share, which is expected to fall from 26% in 2017 to 23% in 2018. In 2017, hydropower generation in the West benefitted from atypically wet conditions.

Notice, in particular, what’s happening in the Northeast. Natural gas generated electricity is the only type that is growing significantly. Yes, non-hydro renewables are growing in relative terms but their contribution to the mix is negligible. Nuclear is also about to take a plunge as important plants such as Indian Point are being closed. Natural gas generated electricity is the only solution out there to replace the nuclear without covering the region with increasingly controversial, not to mention expensive, solar farms.

The shale revolution has changed everything and it continues. Not even New York will change that. It will need our natural gas for decades to come and will eventually decide to produce its own when all the opportunities for demagoguery have reached their expiration date. Economics always prevails—in the end.

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2 thoughts on “20 Gigawatts of New Natural Gas Generated Electricity Coming in 2018

  1. This is a great article for the lay-person to understand. The graphs are easy to follow and the comparison of how much acreage (260,000 acres!) of solar farms it would take to equal the 20 GW of electrical generation from the proposed natgas plants in 2018 is staggering! That 260,000 acres equals 406 square miles! That is larger than the land mass of New York City! Where do we have that kind of land near urban areas where it is needed? How is that economically feasible? And there better not be any cloudy days!

  2. This added Natural Gas electricity generating capacity has another benefit not apparent. Combined Cycle NG can ramp up and down output much quicker than Coal, Oil and Nuclear plants. This can mean the utilities being economical with their NG use. The emissions being lower than coal and oil plants is one thing. Actually dialing the generation capacity is a huge plus. What was a Peaking Plant technology with expensive Natural Gas in the 1990s is now becoming variable Base load or spinning reserves

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