US natural gas sees first year-over-year decline in 3 years
In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):
- The decrease in natural gas production in the first four months of 2021 is the first decrease since 2017 compared to the previous year.
- Here are 5 things US households can do this summer to ease the load on the electricity grid and save money.
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Decline in natural gas production
In the first four months of 2021, the lower 48 US states generated an average of 3,394 gigawatt hours per day with natural gas. That’s a nearly 7% decrease over the same period in 2020, according to the US Energy Information Administration’s hourly power grid monitor.
This decline in natural gas production is the result of higher natural gas prices and increasing competition from clean energy. It’s the first drop since 2017 compared to the previous year.
Due to the colder winter weather, US power generation increased 6.6% in the reporting period compared to 2020. The bad news is that in the first four months of 2021, the US tapped coal burning because it was cheaper than natural gas. Coal burning in the United States increased nearly 40% during that period and accounted for 23% of total production. Ultimately, coal is on the way out in the US. Of the total of 235 US coal-fired power plants, 182 (80%) are uneconomical or are already retiring.
The EIA reports that wind and solar growth far outperformed natural gas growth between May 2020 and February 2021:
Natural gas-fired generation in the USA is facing increasing competition from renewable energies due to the recent record-high capacity expansions of wind and solar power plants. Between May 2020 and February 2021 (the last month we have data for), 22.5 gigawatts (GW) of combined net capacity expansion for wind and solar power went online in the US, an increase of 15%. We anticipate an additional 28.7 GW of wind and solar capacity to come on stream later in 2021, based on our latest preliminary monthly inventory of power generators. In contrast, 4.8 GW of US natural gas capacity went online between May 2020 and February 2021, an increase of 1%. We assume that a further 3.8 GW of natural gas capacity will go online in the further course of 2021.
The EIA assumes that natural gas-fired generation will decrease by 9.1% in 2021 and by a further 0.7% in 2022.
Reduce your summer electricity consumption
2020 was one of the hottest summers ever, and the U.S. west coast suffered specifically from forest fires and intense heat waves this past August and September. California authorities released a report in January 2021 that found that last summer’s heat waves created excessive electricity demands, which in turn resulted in blackouts.
So Sense, a smart panels and apps company, conducted a study of households with anonymized data from last August and found that 55% of electricity consumption in the evening could be reduced during the day or postponed to other times.
Here are five things US households can do this summer to ease the burden on the electricity grid and save money on utility bills:
- 88% of the consumption came from air conditioning. Cool your home earlier in the day when there is plenty of renewable energy on the grid, then turn up the thermostat in the evening.
- Sense’s data shows that 20% of Americans have HVAC systems that cost the homeowner an additional $ 882 per year on average to keep their homes cool – almost four times the most efficient similar homes. Regular maintenance and upgrades can reduce these costs.
- Postpone activities to off-peak hours. In summer, energy demand is highest between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. when air conditioning is buzzing and families use more devices. Don’t pile up with optional activities. Keep your washer, dryer or dishwasher running in the middle of the day and schedule your electric vehicle to charge in the middle of the night.
- Pre-cool your home during heat waves. Set the thermostat to cooler temperatures in the morning, then turn it up during peak hours to use less energy. If your home is well insulated, it will stay cool during those afternoon hours.
- Schedule an energy audit for your home. During the audit, assess which of the following factors have the greatest impact on cooling costs: the efficiency of the HVAC system itself, whether the house envelope is well insulated and sealed, or your preferred thermostat settings.
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