The electric utility industry added 8,864 megawatts (MW) of capacity during the first half of 2012, slightly lagging the pace seen in 2011. Shareholder-owned electric utilities brought 3,256 MW online, fairly evenly split between new builds and expansions at existing plants. Most of the activity took place in the western and southern regions of the country (such as the WECC and SERC North American Electric Reliability Corporation regions).
As in 2011, the majority of 2012’s new capacity is fueled by natural gas (2,170 MW for the shareholder-owned electric utilities). Six natural gas projects have been completed so far this year, mostly located in the western United States. Historically low natural gas prices, low up-front capital costs (compared to coal and nuclear), and the flexibility offered by natural gas generation to meet peak loads and balance variable resources have made it a popular fuel choice for large thermal plants in recent years.