Coal-fired generation reaches 30-year low in 1Q 2011

The amount of electricity generated by coal reached a 30-year low during the first three months of 2011, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The U.S. generated about 440 TWh using coal during the first quarter of 2011, which is 26.5 TWh less than the amount generated during the same time frame in 2010.

The decline in coal-fired generation is offset by other energy sources, particularly natural gas, the report said.  The difference in fuel costs contributed to the drop in coal generation, with coal spot prices rising for two years and natural gas spot prices remaining relatively low, according to the EIA.

However, the overall total level of U.S. generation increased by less than 1 percent, the report said.

The use of coal is expected to increase in the second quarter of 2011, largely because of nuclear power plant outages scheduled for April, May and June.

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