With natural gas prices predicted to make a steady climb next year, federal energy officials expect both coal and renewables to play a bigger role in generating electricity for America.
"Expected growth in natural gas exports and domestic natural gas consumption in 2018 contribute to the forecast Henry Hub natural gas spot price rising from an annual average of $3.01 [per million Btu] in 2017 to $3.10/MMBtu in 2018 ," the Energy Information Administration said in its latest Short-Term Energy Outlook.
"EIA expects the share of U.S. total utility-scale electricity generation from natural gas will fall from an average of 34 percent in 2016 to about 31 percent in 2017 as a result of higher natural gas prices and increased generation from renewables and coal," according to the report issued Nov. 7.
On the renewables front, EIA sees the nation's total wind capacity increasing by 6 gigawatts this year to a total of 88 GW. By the end of 2018, it's expected to hit 96 GW.
As for utility-scale solar generating capacity, the report said that should rise 5 GW to 27 GW this year, increasing to 31 GW next year.
"Generation from renewable energy sources other than hydropower grows from 8 percent in 2016 to a forecast share of about 9 percent in 2017 and 10 percent in 2018," EIA said.
As for coal, EIA estimated a 10 percent increase in production during the first 10 months of this year, compared to the same time frame in 2016. It sees annual production of about 790 million short tons both this year and next.
EIA also had good news for drivers, noting that the national average for a gallon of regular was $2.51 last month, down 14 cents from September, which the report noted saw "the highest monthly average since July 2015," due to hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
EIA forecasts regular averaging $2.47 a gallon in November and $2.39 in December.