By - Jim Vess

While most states still depend on fossil fuel-fired electricity generation, big shifts are underway

Energize Weekly, September 19, 2018

Fossil fuels continue to be the main source for generating electricity in more than two-thirds of the country, but there continues to be a shift away from coal and natural gas, with a slight uptick in nuclear generation and hydropower, according to figures from the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Coal-fired power plants provided the bulk of the electricity in 18 states in 2017, down from 28 states in 2007. Natural gas was the main source of electricity in 16 states, a 45 percent increase over 2007. Hawaii continues to depend on petroleum, which accounted for 62 percent of the state’s electricity generation in 2017.

Top coal burners included Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia. Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado were also heavily dependent on coal. Among the states relying on natural gas are Texas, California, Florida and Nevada.

Overall, natural gas provided 32 percent of electricity generation in 2017, compared with coal’s 30 percent share.

In the 10 states that no longer generate the largest share of electricity from coal, five are now more dependent on natural gas and five on nuclear.

Nuclear power plants accounted for the next largest share of generation, providing the majority of electricity in nine states in 2017, up from six a decade earlier. Top nuclear-generating states included North Carolina and South Carolina. Nuclear generated 21 percent of the nation’s electricity in 2017.

Vermont got 81 percent of its electricity from the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant in 2007. Since its retirement in 2014, the state’s nuclear share is zero, and hydro and biomass became the top sources of electricity.

In New Jersey, a surge in natural gas-fired generating capacity between 2009 and 2016 led to natural gas surpassing nuclear in 2015.

Only one nuclear power plant has been completed since 2007, the Watts Bar Unit 2 in Tennessee, though some nuclear power plants have completed uprates.

Among the 11 states where natural gas was the most prevalent electricity generation fuel in 2007, all were still using mostly natural gas in 2017, except Maine where hydroelectricity became the most common electricity source in 2017.

Six states got the largest part of their electricity from hydropower plants, up from four in 2007. “Hydro is the only renewable energy source with the largest share in any state, but that may soon change with the continued addition of wind turbines in states such as Kansas and Iowa,” EIA said. Among the top hydropower states were Washington and Oregon.

Among top renewable generating sources by state, hydroelectricity slipped to 19 states in 2017 from 28 states in 2007, while wind and solar resources grew. Wind was the most prevalent renewable generation source in 16 states in 2017, and solar was the most prevalent renewable generation source in seven states.

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