Coal stockpiles at generating plants have fallen to the lowest level in three years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Coal’s leading role in electricity generation has been eclipsed by a steady increase in generation from burning natural gas – which is in ample supply at low prices as a result of improved gas shale extraction technologies.
As a result of that economic trend, coupled with federal efforts in past years to discourage coal-fired generation to fight climate change, many coal-fired plants have been closed or will soon be closed by utilities.
Some energy experts worry that the decline in coal generation capacity will mean that we may face an electricity shortage if energy demands spike as a result of a cold winter.
Coal supplies, however, appear to remain robust, according to EIA figures.
“As of August 2017, about 55 percent of total coal stocks were subbituminous coal, most of which is produced in Wyoming. On average, coal plants using subbituminous coal can operate about 80 days at August 2017 stockpile levels.” EIA said..
“Another 42 percent of coal stocks are bituminous coal from states such as West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania. Plants using bituminous coal can operate about 90 days at August 2017 stockpile levels.”