Natural gas-fired generation in the US increased 9%, or nearly 55,000 gigawatthours (GWh), in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period of 2019, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a statement on Wednesday.
Despite a 5% decline in total electricity generation in the US during that period, the increase in natural gas-fired generation in the country was a result of recent low gas prices and additions in natural gas-fired power capacity, the EIA said.
Although the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) mitigation efforts caused reduced economic activity and a decline in US' electricity consumption, natural gas-fired generation from electric power plants reached record-high levels on July 28, 2020 as summer heating season started its seasonal peak, it added.
On the other hand, coal-fired generation saw most of the decline in electricity production in the US during the first half of 2020, as it fell by 30%, or 138,000 GWh, compared to the same period of 2019.
"Because of historically low natural gas prices so far in 2020, coal-fired generation this year has been uneconomical in most regions compared with natural gas-fired generation, leading to price-driven coal-to-natural gas fuel switching," the EIA said in the statement.
Switching from coal to gas is most evident since the beginning of 2018. About 18,000 megawatts (MW) of net capacity from new gas turbine plants entered service from January 2018 to June 2020, while some 31,000 MW of net capacity for coal-fired plants retired, in addition to about 2,400 MW in net capacity for nuclear power plants during that period.
However, natural gas-fired generation in the US is lately facing higher competition from solar and wind energy. Since 2018, about 23,200 MW of new solar and wind capacity has been added in the country.
Renewable energy, consisting of wind, solar, and hydroelectric generation, has increased by some 5% and renewables have been the only other energy source other than natural gas to grow in the first half of 2020, according to the EIA.
By Ovunc Kutlu