National Energy Grid

United States of America

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In 2002, the United States generated 3,836 billion kilowatthours (Kwh) of electricity, including 3,673 billion Kwh from the electric power sector plus an additional 162 billion Kwh coming mainly from combined heat and power (CHP) facilities in the commercial and industrial sectors. For the electric power sector, coal-fired plants accounted for 52% of generation, nuclear 21%, natural gas 16%, hydroelectricity 7%, oil 2%, geothermal and "other" 1%. Natural gas-fired power plants have been gaining share rapidly over the past few years. Coal-fired power plants generally have been less attractive than natural-gas-fired plants due to relatively high capital costs, longer construction periods, and lower efficiencies than natural gas combined-cycle plants, and has been losing share. Nuclear power has been growing only slowly, far behind the rate of natural gas-fired power.

On a national level, the average retail price of electricity during 2002 averaged 7.25 cents per Kwh, down slightly from 7.32 cents per Kwh in 2001. Electricity prices in the United States fell every year between 1993 and 1999, but this trend reversed in 2000 and 2001. As of 2001, U.S. total installed electric generating capacity was 813 gigawatts (GW). Of this total, 74% was thermal (mainly coal and natural gas), 12% nuclear, 12% hydro, and 2% "renewables" (geothermal, solar, wind). The amount and geographical distribution of capacity by energy source is a function of availability and price of fuels and/or regulations. Capacity by energy source generally shows a geographical pattern such as: significant nuclear capacity in New England, coal in the central U.S., hydroelectric in the Pacific West, and natural-gas-fired capacity in the Coastal South.

Total annual electricity demand (retail sales plus industrial and commercial generation for own use and other direct sales) grew 3.9% for all of 2002. Abnormally high summer temperatures and high cooling demand increased electricity demand sharply in the third quarter of 2002. Total U.S. electricity demand is estimated to have been 5.8% higher this past winter than during the 2001-2002 winter, due mostly to weather related demand. In 2003, electricity demand is expected to grow by a relatively subdued rate of about 1.8%. Due to the sluggish economy and a huge increase in electric power generating capacity, the southeastern United States is even expecting a large-scale power oversupply problem in the near term.


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