Average Capacity Factor of Gas Plants Exceeded Coal in 2015


For the first time on record, the average capacity factor of natural gas-fired, combined-cycle power plants in the United States exceeded that of coal-fired power plants in 2015, according to a report issued today by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Capacity factor measures the actual output of a power plant, expressing that measurement as a ratio against the plant’s nameplate capacity, which is the amount of power a plant can theoretically output if run continuously, without regard for outage requirements or market conditions.

The EIA report notes that while utilization of gas-fired plants has increased, utilization of coal-fired plants has declined. With an average capacity factor of 56 percent in 2015 (up from 35 percent in 2005), gas-fired plants barely edged out coal-fired plants, which had an average capacity factor of 55 percent last year.

The report suggests natural gas-fired power plants have a competitive edge over coal-fired plants because of the way the plants are operated. While coal-fired plants primarily rely on steam-driven generating units, natural gas-fired plants rely on a variety of technologies, operating either combustion or steam turbines, or combining these two technologies into a hybridized solution via combined-cycle operation. In 2015, combustion turbines accounted for 28 percent of natural gas-fired usage, while steam turbines accounted for 17 percent of usage. Importantly, combined-cycle technologies accounted for 53 percent of natural gas-fired plant operation during the same period.

The report also attributes increased utilization of natural gas-fired power plants to the low price of natural gas in recent years.

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now


Making DDoS Mitigation Part of Your Incident Response Plan: Critical Steps and Best Practices

Like a new virulent strain of flu, the impact of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is...

The Multi-Tax Challenge of Managing Excise Tax and Sales Tax

To be able to accurately calculate multiple tax types, companies must be prepared to continually ...

Operational Analytics in the Power Industry

Cloud computing, smart grids, and other technologies are changing transmission and distribution. ...

Maximizing Operational Excellence

In a recent survey conducted by PennEnergy Research, 70% of surveyed energy industry professional...