HOUSTON Jan 10 Natural gas was used to fuel
nearly 45 percent of the electricity consumed in Texas last
year, up from 40 percent in 2011 as cheaper gas prices allowed
generators to pare coal use to 34 percent in 2012 from 39
percent, the Texas grid operator said Thursday.
Overall, electric use in the state's primary electric market
dropped 2.7 percent compared to 2011, a year which included the
hottest summer on record along with a period of extremely cold
winter weather, said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas
(ERCOT), the state's grid operator.
It was the first annual drop in Texas power use since 2009
when the nation was in a deep economic slump.
With milder weather in 2012, Texas power consumption dropped
to 324,859 gigawatt-hours from the record of 334,000 GWh set in
2011, ERCOT said.
Nuclear power contributed 11.8 percent to the state's power
mix, little-changed from 2011, but down from more than 13
percent in the three previous years, ERCOT said.
Wind power generation increased slightly to 9.2 percent, up
from 8.5 percent the previous year, as growth in new wind farms
Wind's contribution has tripled since 2007 and a $6 billion
program to expand the high-voltage network into areas where wind
farms operate will be completed by the end of 2013.
Power generators around the country have favored use of
natural gas over coal as gas prices tumbled with increased shale
U.S. gas production set records in 2011 and 2012 and are
projected to rise again this year, according to government
The average spot price of gas at the benchmark Henry Hub
dropped 30 percent last year to a 13-year low, according to
Normal Texas population and economic growth pushes demand
for electricity up by an average of about 2 percent a year,
ERCOT said. In 2011, record-breaking weather conditions pushed
electric use up by nearly 5 percent.
Last year, ERCOT said power consumption was lower in six of
12 months, but the grid operator set peak hourly demand records
in four months: May, June, July and September.
Despite lower overall electric use, Texas regulators remain
concerned that the state's supply of new generation is not
keeping pace with the trend of higher consumption.
ERCOT has said the state's power reserve - a cushion against
blackouts - will fall below the agency's target for the next
several summers, the time of year when demand soars to keep air
Major power producers in the state include Luminant, a unit
of Energy Future Holdings, which is owned by Kohlberg Kravis
Roberts & Co LP and several private equity firms; NRG
Energy ; Calpine Corp ; NextEra Energy and