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Residential electricity bills could vary by region this summer despite cooler forecasts

Despiteforecasts for lower temperatures across much of the U.S. during the upcomingsummer months, retail residential electricity bills during that period couldvary by region, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in itsmonthly "Short-Term EnergyOutlook" released April 12.

Theagency noted that U.S. cooling degree days in 2016 are expected to be 5% lowerthan last year and 2% higher than the previous 10-year average. Nonetheless, retailpower prices will see variation across the country based on region. Forexample, cooling degree days in the South Atlantic states this summer arelikely to be 10% lower than during the same period in 2015, and this shouldlead to a drop of 5% in residential electricity bills in the region. On theflip side though, cooling degree days in the East North Central states areexpected to be 12% above the same period in 2015, which should mean the averageresidential bill in that region will be 8% higher than in the summer of 2015.

TheEIA expects a drop of 7.1% in coal-fired generation this year from the yearprior.

"Althoughthe Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) went into effect in April 2015,some coal power plant operators applied for one-year or (in a limited number ofcases) two-year extensions. As the extensions expire, plants will need toeither install pollution controls, switch fuel sources, or suspend operationsto comply with MATS. These operator decisions, along with the continued low priceof natural gas, contribute to EIA's forecast of a 7.1% decline in coalgeneration in 2016 compared with last year," the EIA said.

TheEIA said a portion of the decline is offset by a projected increase of 3.4% innatural gas generation this year. Overall, total U.S. electricity generationthis year is expected to average 11.1 TWh per day, down 0.5% from 2015. TotalU.S. generation is seen rising by 1.6% in 2017.

Theagency expects the U.S. average retail price of electricity to the residentialsector will average 12.6 cents/kWh this year, down 0.7% from an average of 12.7cents/kWh in 2015. In 2017, the EIA anticipates the average residential powerprice could rebound by more than 2% to 12.9 cents/kWh.

CO2 emissions to slide by0.9% in 2016

TheEIA estimated that CO2 emissions decreased by 2.5% in 2015, and it expects adecline of 0.9% in 2016 before rising 0.9% in 2017, based on the impact of theweather and the economy.