We are experiencing one of the coldest Christmases in years, and our energy system is increasingly unable to keep up with dipping temperatures.
Centerpoint Energy and Xcel Energy are warning that the cold temperatures are forcing up natural gas prices, and the companies recommend you keep the heat turned down to 65 degrees when you are awake at home and 60 degrees when you go to sleep throughout the holiday weekend to save money on your heating bill.
As the temperatures have plunged, coal generation on the regional electric grid has increased substantially, increasing from about 20,000 megawatts (MW) on December 14th to 35,000 MW at the time of this writing.
Without this coal capacity, natural gas generation would have needed to double from December 18th to the 20th as wind production died down, making the price of natural gas spike even higher.
This simple reality demonstrates the value of our existing coal fleet and the wisdom of building new nuclear power plants that can reliably replace the need for natural gas in the electricity-generating sector to mute spikes in demand.
All of this makes coal a pretty groovy gift for Christmas.