Southern states switching from coal to natural gas

Burning coal to produce electricity has declined in the South in the last decade while the use of natural gas has grown, according to the Energy Information Administration.

In 2016, southern states used natural gas for 42% of their electricity generation, up from 25% in 2006, Kallanish Energy learns. In that time, coal use for electricity generation in the South fell from 50% to 29%, the federal agency said, in a report this week.

From 2006 to 2016, more coal-fired power plants in the South were retired than units fired by any other fuel, EIA said. Units with 20,800 megawatts of capacity were retired in that time.

Average U.S. usage for natural gas is 34%, it said. It is highest in Delaware, with 89%, and lowest in West Virginia, with 2%, EIA said.

Natural gas use in the South surpassed coal use in 2012, 2015 and 2016, EIA said. Nationally, natural gas surpassed coal for producing electricity for the first time in 2016.

The biggest users of coal to produce electricity remain West Virginia (94%) and Kentucky (83%). Tennessee, Arkansas and Maryland all topped the national average of 30% for coal use in 2016.

Natural gas use has topped coal for the last decade in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, EIA said. That region gets 50% of its electricity from natural gas and 25% from coal.

Coal still tops natural gas – 38% to 35% – in Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Natural gas use is greater in the region from Maryland and Delaware south through West Virginia, Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida: 40% natural gas to 29% coal. The mix of fuels to produce electricity varies from state to state,

Wind is also adding capacity in the South. Texas is No. 1 in the country and Oklahoma is No. 3 for total installed wind capacity, as of September, EIA said.