Plants, Poles and Plugs
Electric Companies Use A Broad Mix Of Fuel Sources To Generate Electricity.
No single fuel is capable of providing the energy to meet all of our nation’s electricity demands; therefore, many energy sources provide the fuel necessary to generate electricity. The combination of energy sources used is referred to as the generation or fuel mix. Nearly half of the nation’s electricity supply is generated from coal. Nuclear fuel produces more than 19 percent. Natural gas supplies nearly 20 percent. Hydropower provides nearly seven percent of the electricity supply. Fuel oil provides less than two percent of the generation mix. Other renewable sources—such as wind, solar, and geothermal—provide more than three percent of the generation mix.
Most electric companies rely on a variety of fuels to generate electricity. A varied fuel mix protects electric companies and their customers from contingencies such as fuel unavailability, fuel price fluctuations, and changes in regulatory practices that can drive up the cost of a particular fuel. Fuel diversity also helps to ensure stability and reliability in electricity supply and strengthens national security.
The electricity generation mix also differs in various regions of the country.For example, in New England, more than 60 percent of power is generated from natural gas and nuclear power combined. However, in the South Atlantic region, more than 50 percent of power is generated from coal alone. Therefore, major changes in the generation mix could have economic and reliability impacts, especially on a regional basis.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Agency, Electric Power Annual 2005, October 2006.