Faster-than-expected deployment of natural gas-fired generating plants has caused federal energy officials to revise predictions for the composition of electricity generation this year.

In last month's Short-Term Energy Outlook, the Energy Information Administration predicted minimal growth in natural gas generation. But this month's outlook, released March 12, upped that prediction to 2 percent growth this year.

Moreover, EIA now expects coal-based generation this year to fall by 12 percent, compared with an 8 percent decline projected last month.

"These changes in the forecast are driven primarily by new natural-gas fired generating capacity coming online sooner than expected," the agency said. "As a result, EIA expects coal production in 2019 to total 695 million short tons, which is 27 MMsT (4 percent) lower than [February's] forecast".

Overall, utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas-fired power plants will rise from 35 percent in 2018 to 37 percent in 2019 and 2020, according to the report. EIA forecasts that the share of electricity generation from coal will average 25 percent in 2019 and 23 percent in 2020, down from 27 percent in 2018.

This month's report still expects wind's annual share of electricity generation to exceed hydropower's share for the first time. "EIA forecasts that wind generation will rise from 753,000 megawatt hours per day (MWh/d) in 2018 to 861,000 MWh/d in 2019 (a share of 8 percent). Wind generation is projected to rise to 963,000 MWh/d (a share of 9 percent) by 2020," the report said.

Predictions for the generation share of hydropower and other renewables stayed about the same. The share of hydropower is forecast to average slightly less than 7 percent of total generation in 2019 and in 2020, similar to 2018. Wind, solar and other non-hydropower renewables together provided about 10 percent of electricity generation last year, and EIA expects they’ll provide 11 percent this year and 13 percent next year.

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