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5 Takeaways From The Annual Kentucky Coal Report

The Kentucky Department for Energy Development and Independence released its annual coal report earlier this month. Kentucky Coal Facts 2014 is a huge, comprehensive document of nearly all facets of the coal mined and burned in Kentucky.In case you don’t want to read all 127 pages, here are five interesting takeaways:

  1. Last year, Western Kentucky emerged as the state’s biggest coal producer—for the first time in more than a century. The most surprising new information in the coal report is the continued dominance of Western Kentucky coal. In 2013, the region’s annual coal production exceeded Eastern Kentucky’s for the first time since 1911. Western Kentucky produced 40,878,963 tons of coal to Eastern Kentucky’s 39,672,334 tons.
  2. Eastern Kentucky coal is the most expensive in the nation. The fuel averaged $3.62 per MMBtu. That's more expensive than West Virginia’s $3.23 and Western Kentucky’s $2.40. Wyoming’s coal was the cheapest at $2.03 per MMBtu. Those numbers take into account the delivered price of coal to electric utilities, which is affected by how difficult coal is to mine, transportation costs and market demand.
  3. The domestic market for Kentucky coal is shrinking, and is now concentrated in the Southeast. In 1990, Kentucky coal was burned in power plants in Minnesota, Iowa, New York and Massachusetts, though most of the industry’s customers were in the Southeast. By 2013, fewer plants outside the region were burning Kentucky coal.
  4. Kentucky is Kentucky’s biggest customer. About 30 percent of the coal mined last year in the commonwealth was burned in Kentucky power plants. This number has increased as other states have decreased their consumption of Kentucky coal.
  5. But half of those customers have disappeared, or will soon. Of Kentucky’s 20 coal-fired power plants, 10 are either already retired, or will be partially retired or converted to natural gas by 2016. That includes four fairly large plants: Shawnee, Paradise, Cane Run and Big Sandy.