Skip down to the tables
Chapter 6 focuses on the U.S. energy supply. Sections 6.1 and 6.2 contain data on electric utilities, including generation capacity, primary fuel consumption, transmission and distribution losses, and electricity prices. Section 6.3 addresses the production, consumption, and storage of natural gas and petroleum. Section 6.4 covers emissions from the utility sector. Section 6.5 provides data on how utilities spend public and system benefit funds. The main points from this chapter are summarized below:
- Total primary energy consumption in the United States increased from 78 quads in 1980 to over 98 quads in 2010. (1.1.3)
- Electricity demand in the buildings sector has more than doubled since 1980, increasing from 4.4 quads of delivered energy to 9.5 quads in 2010. (6.1.1)
- The average capacity factor of nuclear plants increased from 66% in 1990 to 91% in 2010, while the average capacity factor for coal plants increased from 59% to only 65%.
- From 2000 to 2010, the number of natural gas wells increased from about 276,000 to 510,000 nationwide, allowing 89% of U.S. gas consumption to be produced domestically in 2010.
Total primary energy consumption in the United States increased from 78 quads in 1980 to over 98 quads in 2010. (1.1.3) Much of this growth has been driven by a 79% increase in electricity demand, from 7.2 quads of delivered energy in 1980 to 12.8 quads in 2010, or 2.0% annual increase during this period. To meet this demand, primary fuel consumption by electric utilities has increased from 24.3 quads to 39.6 quads over the same period. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects energy consumption from electricity will grow at a reduced rate to 15.3 quads of delivered energy and 45.1 quads of primary energy by 2035. (6.1.1), (6.1.3)
In 2010, the buildings sector consumed 40% of total primary energy but 74% of electricity. Electricity demand in the buildings sector has more than doubled since 1980, increasing from 4.4 quads of delivered energy to 9.5 quads in 2010. In comparison, buildings consumed 8.4 quads of natural gas, 1.9 quads of petroleum, and less than 1 quad of coal and renewable sources on site. Electricity accounted for 82% of energy expenditures ($302 billion) in the buildings sector in 2010. (6.1.1), (6.1.3)
Utilities rely on a variety of input fuels to generate electricity, including coal, nuclear, natural gas, petroleum, and renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydroelectric dams. Coal has accounted for at least half of electricity generation from 1980 through 2008. Coal consumption has declined recently and is projected to continue its decline, accounting for only 43% of utilities’ energy consumption in 2035. Nuclear generation also grew from 2.7 quads in 1980 to 8.4 quads, or 21% of total generation, in 2010. The use of natural gas and petroleum is very responsive to price, and use increases when prices become more competitive. As an overall trend, their shares of total generation decreased between 1980 and 1990, from 16% to 11% for natural gas and from 11% to 4% for petroleum. (6.1.2), (6.1.3)
Between 1990 and 2010, petroleum continued to fall as a share of total generation, while generation from natural gas doubled to 8.0 quads. The amount of electricity generated by nuclear power plants remained between 19% and 22% of total generation. As new nuclear capacity increases in the near future, nuclear-generated electricity will increase. After 2030 when nuclear capacity declines, nuclear-generated electricity declines. After 2030, coal’s share of total generation is stable, while absolute generation from coal increases by 26% to 20.5 quads. EIA expects renewable sources to increase their share from 10% in 2008 to 14% in 2035, mostly as a result of increased wind capacity. (6.1.2), (6.1.3)