Reasons for projected natural gas-fired generation growth vary by region

Natural gas-fired generation growth projected

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects that natural gas-fired electric power generation in the contiguous US will increase to 1600 million MWh by 2040, a 1.3% average annual increase.

Increasing natural gas supply in the US results in unexpected future growth in natural gas-fired electric generation, particularly after 2020. Total US natural gas production increases 56% from 2012 to 2040, largely because of the development of shale gas, tight gas and offshore natural gas resources.

The three regions with the highest growth in natural gas fired generation, also have the highest overall amounts of coal-fired generation. Coal-fired generation still grows significantly in SERC Reliability Corporation (SERC) and Reliability Corporation (RFC), despite significant retirements of coal-fired capacity, and the increased cost of building new coal-fired facilities. In the Western Electricity Coordination Council (WECC), natural gas competes with renewable sources for future electric power demand, while in the Texas Reliability Entity (TRE) region, natural gas accounts for almost all the growth in new generation.


The SERC and RFC regions cover many of the states in the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest. The RFC contains the Appalachian Basin’s Marcellus Shale play, the country’s largest and fastest-growing natural gas production basin.

2012 – 2040: Natural gas-fired generation in the power sector in SERC rise by 109 million MWh, the largest increase in the US, while in RFC, it rise by 103 million MWh, the third largest increase in the US. Coal-fired power remains the largest generation source in both regions through 2040.

Near-term growth: In both SERC and RFC, natural gas fired generation falls through 2014 in response to higher gas prices, and then regains its market share in 2015 and 2016, in response to coal-fired plant capacity retirements. Cumulative coal retirements through 2016 are greater in RFC (20 gigawatts) than in SERC (12 gigawatts).

Medium to long term growth: Increased natural gas prices cause natural gas-fired generation in SERC to decline through 2019, with coal-fired generation increasing, while gas-fired generation increases in RFC. Natural gas-fired generation rises in response to higher production in both of these regions after 2020, surpassing nuclear generation by 2035.


The WECC region encompasses the Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, and southwestern US.

2012 – 2040: Natural gas-fired generation WECC rises by 105 million MWh, the second-largest increase in the US. Renewable power generation, including hydroelectric generation, remains WECC’s largest generation source through 2040. Natural gas-fired and renewable generation in the electric power sector both rise by an annual average of 1.5%, while coal-fired generation decreases.

Near-term: Higher natural gas prices lead to lower gas-fired generation in WECC through 2016. Demand for natural gas-fired power is largely unaffected by coal plant retirements, which are rare in this region.

Medium to long term: Natural gas-fired generation rises significantly beginning in 2018, and replaces coal as the region’s second largest power source in 2021.


The TRE region covers most of Texas. It includes much of the Permian Basin as well as the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas.

2012 – 2040: Natural gas-fired generation remains the largest source of power generation in the TRE region through 2040. Gas-fired generation rises by 81 million MWh, the fourth-largest increase in the US. Coal-fired, renewable, and nuclear generation are all virtually flat through 2040, with increased gas-fired generation satisfying almost all of the region’s 0.9%/y electric power demand growth.

Near-term: Natural gas-fired generation falls through 2015, as higher natural gas prices make coal a relatively more economical source of power generation. Like WECC, very little coal-fired capacity is expected to be retired in the near-term in TRE.

Medium to long term: Natural gas-fired generation rises starting in 2016, as the region’s increased production, coupled with the relatively high cost of building coal-fired power plants, make natural gas the primary fuel used to satisfy the region’s electric power demand growth.

via Reasons for projected natural gas-fired generation growth vary by region.