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The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reduced on Thursday its forecast for U.S. hydropower generation by 6% this year compared to 2022, as much lower generation in the Northwest would more than offset an increase in California’s hydropower output.
Since the spring, higher-than-normal temperatures have slashed hydropower generation in the Northwest, which accounts for half of the U.S. hydropower generation, the EIA said.
While the water supply outlook in the Northwest for the 2023 summer looked good last autumn and winter, high temperatures in May led to rapid melting of snow, leading to a significant loss of water supply. As less water available, the Northwest region generated 24% less hydropower in the first half of 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Hydropower generation in the Northwest is expected to fall by 19% this year compared to last year, the EIA said.
Record-breaking winter precipitation in California, on the other hand, resulted in California having 94% more hydropower generation in the first half of 2023 compared with the same period of 2022.
Last year, hydropower accounted for 6.2% of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation, per EIA data.
So far this year, power operators have raised gas-fired electricity supply to offset lower hydropower generation in the Pacific Northwest and lower wind speeds in the Midwest while delivering power amid increased demand during the summer heatwaves.
Between January and August, electricity generation from coal continued to drop in all major U.S. power markets, while clean power generation was essentially flat as lower wind speeds and lower hydropower generation offset a surge in solar power output.
Last year, power generation from renewable sources—wind, solar, hydro, biomass, and geothermal—surpassed coal-fired generation in the electric power sector for the first time ever, the EIA said, as coal plants are being retired and wind and solar installations boom.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com