- Associated Press - Sunday, March 27, 2016

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Natural gas may have taken over as the dominant source nationally for electrical power generation in 2016, but coal remains king in Nebraska.

This year promises to be the first in which natural gas surpasses coal, the nation’s top energy source for decades, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast released earlier this month.

U.S. power generation is expected to be fueled 32 percent by coal and 33.4 percent by natural gas, according to the Lincoln Journal Star (https://bit.ly/1oeLaFL ).

But in Nebraska, coal fueled 61.5 percent of the electricity produced last year. Natural gas made up 1 percent. Nuclear power made up 26 percent of the total, while wind accounted for 8 percent and hydroelectric for 4 percent.

By comparison, Iowa’s net generation was 53 percent from coal, 31 percent from wind, 9 percent nuclear, 4 percent natural gas and about 1 percent hydroelectric.

The explanation both for the nation’s growing appetite for natural gas and Nebraska’s continuing reliance on coal is the same: price.

“It really does boil down to dollars and cents. It always does,” Nebraska Public Power District President and CEO Pat Pope said during a recent interview.

Nationally, coal made up about 50 percent of electrical power generation from 2000 to 2008 because it was significantly cheaper than natural gas. In recent years, however, the price gap has narrowed as the shale gas boom unleashed by fracking drove down natural gas prices and made it a more attractive option for many areas.

But in Nebraska, coal remains cheaper. The average cost of coal delivered for power generation in Nebraska - measured in dollars per million British thermal units - was $1.34 in December, making it the cheapest in the nation and about 30 percent less than the national average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Electric Power Monthly report.


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, https://www.journalstar.com

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