Power plant coal supplies drop to 2-year low

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Power demand from this winter’s bitter cold caused stockpiles at coal power plants to drop below a 60-day supply in December for the first time in more than two years, the Energy Information Administration said.

December was the first time since August 2011 that coal plants’ supplies fell below the 60-day mark, EIA, which is part of the Department of Energy, said Tuesday. Stockpiles grew slightly in January, but still did not surpass 60 days of burn.

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“Coal consumption to generate electricity grew during summer and fall 2013 as the price of natural gas, a competing power generation fuel, increased from low levels in 2012,” EIA said. “Consumption of coal increased further this winter due to bitter cold weather that drove up power demand. “

Inventories grew abnormally high in late 2012 and early 2013 as natural has prices fell, so the low supplies are partly due to an adjustment from that period, EIA said.

In 2013, the most recent year for which EIA has data, coal was the dominant fuel for electricity in the United States, accounting for 37% of electricity generation.