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How Does U.S. Electricity Generation Change Over One Week?

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u.s. electricity generation in a week

How Does U.S. Electricity Generation Change in a Week?

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The U.S. has a dynamic electricity mix, with a range of energy sources generating electricity at different times of the day.

At all times, the amount of electricity generated must match demand in order to keep the power grid in balance, which leads to cyclical patterns in daily and weekly electricity generation.

The above graphic tracks hourly changes in U.S. electricity generation over one week, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The Three Types of Power Plants

Before diving in, it’s important to distinguish between the three main types of power plants in the U.S. electricity mix:

  • Base load plants generally run at full or near-full capacity and are used to meet the base load or the minimum amount of electricity demanded at all times. These are typically coal-fired or nuclear power plants. If regionally available, geothermal and hydropower plants can also be used as baseload sources.
  • Peak load or peaking power plants are typically dispatchable and can be ramped up quickly during periods of high demand. These plants usually operate at maximum capacity only for a few hours a day and include gas-fired and pumped-storage hydropower plants.
  • Intermediate load plants are used during the transitory hours between base load and peak load demand. Intermittent renewable sources like wind and solar (without battery storage) are suitable for intermediate use, along with other sources.

Zooming In: The U.S. Hourly Electricity Mix

With that context, the table below provides an overview of average hourly electricity generation by source for the week of March 7–March 14, 2023, in the Eastern Time Zone.

It’s worth noting that while this is representative of a typical week of electricity generation, these patterns can change with seasons. For example, in the month of June, electricity demand usually peaks around 5 PM, when solar generation is still high, unlike in March.

Energy SourceTypeAvg. Hourly Electricity Generation, MWh
(Mar 07–14, 2023, EST)
Natural GasFossil fuel175,967
NuclearNon-renewable84,391
CoalFossil fuel71,922
WindRenewable50,942
HydroRenewable28,889
SolarRenewable13,213
OtherMixed8,192

Natural gas is the country’s largest source of electricity, with gas-fired plants generating an average of 176,000 MWh of electricity per hour throughout the week outlined above. The dispatchable nature of natural gas is evident in the chart, with gas-fired generation falling in the wee hours and rising during business hours.

Meanwhile, nuclear electricity generation remains steady throughout the given days and week, ranging between 80,000–85,000 MWh per hour. Nuclear plants are designed to operate for long durations (1.5 to 2 years) before refueling and require less maintenance, allowing them to provide reliable baseload energy.

On the other hand, wind and solar generation tend to see large fluctuations throughout the week. For example, during the week of March 07–14, wind generation ranged between 26,875 MWh and 77,185 MWh per hour, based on wind speeds. Solar generation had stronger extremes, often reaching zero or net-negative at night and rising to over 40,000 MWh in the afternoon.

Because wind and solar are often variable and location-specific, integrating them into the grid can pose challenges for grid operators, who rely on forecasts to keep electricity supply and demand in balance. So, what are some ways to solve these problems?

Solving the Renewable Intermittency Challenge

As more renewable capacity is deployed, here are three ways to make the transition smoother.

  • Energy storage systems can be combined with renewables to mitigate variability. Batteries can store electricity during times of high generation (for example, in the afternoon for solar), and supply it during periods of peak demand.
  • Demand-side management can be used to shift flexible demand to times of high renewable generation. For instance, utilities can collaborate with their industrial customers to ensure that certain factory lines only run in the afternoon, when solar generation peaks.
  • Expanding transmission lines can help connect high-quality solar and wind resources in remote regions to centers of demand. In fact, as of the end of 2021, over 900 gigawatts of solar and wind capacity (notably more than the country’s current renewable capacity) were queued for grid interconnection.
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Ranked: The World’s Top Cobalt Producing Countries

Cobalt, an essential component for certain types of EV batteries, has seen a significant shift in its global production landscape.

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Ranked: The World’s Top Cobalt Producing Countries

This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on real assets and resource megatrends each week.

Cobalt, an essential component of key chemistries of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used in EVs, has seen a significant shift in its global production landscape.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has long been the world’s largest cobalt producer, accounting for 73% of global output in 2022.

However, according to the Cobalt Institute, the DRC’s dominance is projected to decrease to 57% by 2030 as Indonesia ramps up its cobalt production as a byproduct from its rapidly expanding nickel industry.

Indonesia Became Second Largest Cobalt Producer in 2022

Indonesia accounts for nearly 5% of global cobalt production today, surpassing established producers like Australia and the Philippines.

In 2022, Indonesia’s cobalt production surged to almost 9,500 tonnes from 2,700 tonnes in 2021, with the potential to increase production by tenfold by 2030.

Country 2022 Production (tonnes) % of Total Production
🇨🇩 DRC144,93673.3%
🇮🇩 Indonesia 9,4544.8%
🇦🇺 Australia 7,0003.5%
🇵🇭 Philippines 5,4002.7%
🇨🇺 Cuba 5,3312.7%
🇷🇺 Russia 3,5001.8%
🇲🇬 Madagascar3,5001.8%
🇨🇦 Canada3,1001.6%
🇵🇬 Papua New Guinea 3,0601.5%
🇹🇷 Türkiye2,3001.2%
🌐 Other10,2105.2%
Total197,791100.0%

Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

In total, global cobalt production reached 197,791 tonnes, with the DRC contributing just under 145,000 tonnes of that mix.

The EV industry is the largest consumer of cobalt, accounting for approximately 40% of total demand. The exponential growth of the EV sector is expected to drive a doubling of global cobalt demand by 2030.

Share of cobalt demand by sector

While the shift in cobalt production is notable, it is not without challenges. Plummeting cobalt prices, which fell almost 30% this year to $13.90 a pound, have severely impacted the DRC.

Furthermore, the longer-term prospects of cobalt could face hurdles due to efforts to reduce its use in batteries, partly driven by human rights concerns associated with artisanal cobalt mining in the DRC and related child labor and human rights abuses.

In a 2021 ruling by a federal court in Washington, Google parent Alphabet, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla were relieved from a class action suit claiming their responsibility for alleged child labor in Congolese cobalt mines.

The Future of Cobalt

Despite ongoing efforts to substitute cobalt in battery applications, cobalt is expected to remain a vital raw material for the entire battery supply chain in the near future.

The demand for cobalt is forecasted to more than double by 2030 to 388,000 tonnes.

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