Natural gas sources for power generation up, coal down

October 4, 2018 By    

Electricity generators that use fossil fuels continue to be the most common sources of electricity generation in most states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). In all but 15 states, coal, natural gas or petroleum liquids were the most-used electricity generation fuel in 2017, the administration says.

Coal, traditionally the major producer of electricity, has fallen in recent years as natural gas, nuclear and hydroelectricity have gained market share. Coal is still the major electricity producer in 18 states, but that is down from 28 in 2007 and natural gas is up from 11 to 16 states since 2007, EIA reports. So, how does propane fit into all of this?

According to Jeff Petrash, general counsel for the National Propane Gas Association, propane doesn’t generally have a stake in central station power generation. It is typically more expensive than natural gas, and, though it could be used as a backup energy source, many states aren’t interested in switching away from fuel oil, the traditional fuel used for backup power.

Under the Clean Power Plan proposed by the Obama administration, propane actively worked to lower electricity use in homes in order to reduce the amount of electricity consumed by states, thereby reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned to produce it. In other words, activities outside of the power plants themselves lent to reduced emissions overall.

This is considered an “outside the fence” approach, Petrash says.

“If you use more propane in home heating and water heating and backup power generation, as well as combined applications, you can reduce electricity demand, which would reduce emissions from power plants,” Petrash says.

Under the Trump administration’s proposed plan, the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, outside-the-fence means of reducing emissions by power plants will not be allowed, he says.

“We’ve stood back from it because if they go down that path there’s no great play for us,” Petrash explains. “Nor do we think there is any chance of convincing them they’re going the wrong way. This is ideological.”

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About the Author:

Clara Richter was a managing editor at LP Gas magazine.

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