Friday, May 4, 2012

EIA Reports New Generation Capacity Exceeding Retirements By 2.5 To 1

The retirement of a power plant normally triggers media coverage, but the start of operations at power facilities often happens without attention.  The impression that can be left by this imbalance of coverage is that electric power retirements are greatly exceeding the opening of new generation capacity.

In fact, in the first two months of 2012, new power plant capacity coming on line exceeded plant capacity retiring by a capacity ratio of about 2.5 to 1.  Specifically, 2,906.9 megawatts of generation capacity began operation and 1,213 megawatts of capacity ceased generation, during January and February 2012.

America has currently 1,058,052 megawatts of capacity available. The capacity added in the first two months of 2012 included mainly natural gas and renewables but a small amount of new coal too.  Much of the capacity added is relatively small units, such as many landfill gas and solar projects.

Perhaps, the fact new capacity often comes in the form of many, smaller units, as opposed to a few massive plants, is one reason why the new generation draws little attention.  But, as the data from EIA shows, the new generation exists and is much cleaner than what it replaces.

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