Full Title: Back in the Black: Coal Makes Comeback
Author(s): Michael Bennett, Rocco Canonica
Publisher(s): Bentek Energy LLC
Publication Date: 5/2014


Coal is making a significant comeback in the power market this year and is expected to remain an important and reliable fuel source for the power sector, despite declines in power market share due to an onslaught of emissions regulations and the impact of the shale gas revolution. The past winter provides a clear example of how important coal remains in the power market. Record cold brought electricity load to peak summer levels, forcing reliance on all generating sources but particularly coal. Even in regions where natural gas was not constrained due to pipeline infrastructure, coal still came to the rescue as power load and heating demand soared and natural gas prices rocketed higher. Coal consumption through April 2014 was up 25% (67-million short tons) from the same period last year to a total of 334-million short tons. Average daily coal consumption rose to 2.8-million short tons a day this past winter, compared to 2.3-million short tons per day in the winter of 2012-13 and 2.1-million short tons in the winter of 2011-12. These year-over-year increases are in contrast to a long series of market-share declines in recent years. While coal has been the dominant fuel source for US power generation for more than 60 years, its share of the power market dropped 12 percentage points over the past 10 years from a 53% power market share in 2003 to 41% in 2013.