US fossil fuel use in power sector at 23-year low

It was driven by a reduction in coal and oil consumption, with a slightly offsetting increase in natural gas consumption

By Priyanka Shrestha

The use of fossil fuels in the US power industry fell to a 23-year low in 2017.

It declined to 22.5 quadrillion British thermal units (quads), driven by a fall in the use of coal and oil with a slightly offsetting increase in natural gas consumption, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

It adds changes in the fuel mix and improvements in electricity generating technology have also led the sector to produce power while using less fossil fuels.

Last year, coal use by the power industry reached its lowest level since 1982.

Recent natural gas consumption in the sector has “generally been increasing” but usage last year was slightly lower than the record-high level seen in 2016.

The EIA said: “In energy-equivalent terms, more coal was consumed in the power sector than natural gas in 2017, at 12.7 quads and 9.5 quads, respectively.

“However, in terms of electricity generation, natural gas-fired power plants in the electric power sector produced more electricity than coal-fired plants, at 31% and 0% of the US total respectively in 2017. Natural gas-fired units tend to be more energy efficient, requiring less energy content to produce a unit of electricity.”