EIA: Cold January Temperatures Affected U.S. Use of Power and Natural Gas
February 17, 2010
Colder-than-normal U.S. temperatures in January, particularly in the Southeast, drove up the use of electric power and natural gas, according to DOE's Energy Information Administration (EIA). In the South Census Region, where about 60% of households use electricity as their primary space heating fuel, residential electricity sales increased by about 12% in January, relative to January 2009. Most of that increased power probably came from natural gas, and the cold further north also increased the use of natural gas for heating. That double-whammy caused natural gas spot prices to peak at $7.51 per million Btu on January 7, but as temperatures eased, the spot price fell to about $5.30 per million Btu by the end of the month. The spot price averaged $5.83 per million Btu for all of January, about 49 cents higher than December. Despite the potential for price spikes, natural gas spot prices are expected to average only $5.37 per million Btu in 2010. The nation should also see some energy cost relief this summer, as temperatures are expected to be about 2.5% cooler than last summer. See the EIA's "Short-Term Energy Outlook," published on February 10.