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Our Changing Energy System: Electric Generation

October 23, 2011

To make informed energy choices about the Marcellus Shale, it’s essential to understand its context in the broader energy system and to have understandings about the ways in which the broader energy system is changing.

Amongst the things were working on are more papers in the Marcellus Papers series. The paper I’m working on is tentatively titled Sources and Uses of Energy: a Brief Overview. In doing the research and writing for that piece, I came across a fascinating if somewhat complex graph from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

It includes two representations of electric generating capacity by source as of 2010. One is a pie graph that simply shows how much generating capacity we have for producing electricity from each of these sources:

  • Natural Gas (41%)
  • Coal (30%)
  • Nuclear (10%)
  • Hydroelectric (9%)
  • Petroleum (6%)
  • Wind (3%)
  • Other (2%)

The above percentages are actually for 2009, not 2010 as the graph shows.

Recognize that 41% of both graphs is shaded yellow for natural gas, and 30% black for coal and so on. The shaded line graph therefore replicates the information in the pie graph and adds considerably more information to it. You can see, for example, that almost all the really old plants still in operation today are hydroelectric plants, and that almost all the wind capacity (in fact all that’s large enough to be represented on the graph) is essentially brand new. Keep looking and you’ll see more. Click here to get a sort of guided tour of the chart.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Form EIA-860 Annual Electric Generator Report , and Form EIA-860M (see Table ES3 in the March 2011 Electric Power Monthly) Note: Data for 2010 are preliminary. Generators with online dates earlier than 1930 are predominantly hydroelectric. Data include non-retired plants existing as of year-end 2010. This chart shows the most recent (summer) capacity data for each generator. However, this number may change over time, if a generator undergoes an uprate or derate.

Clicking on the image will take you to its source within the Energy Information Administration website. I’ve also taken the image and placed it in a Prezi.* That’s the link above the image labelled as a guided tour. I created the Prezi to highlight some parts of the graph I found interesting. The Prezi format allows you to create a path through the image (or, in other prezis, through multiple images) and embed text, videos or images within the presentation. I’ve used only text annotations within this one, but I think it helpfully draws attention to information related to the graph’s content.

The prezi linked both here and aboveis excerpted from a larger prezi used in The Marcellus Shale in the Context of Our Changing Energy System, a presentation by Don Duggan-Haas at the Engineers for a Sustainable World Annual Conference at the University of Buffalo on October 21, 2011. Click on the title to see that prezi.

*Prezi is a software package for making presentations that allows zooming in and out of images and text. Make your own at

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