North American Cross-Border Electricity Trade


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Virginia Tech. Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research.


The extensive trade of goods and services between the United States and Canada includes electricity. In general, this trade involves the shipment of power in both directions across the national border. In recent years the United States has been the net importer. In 1994 the United States imported a net 43.7 billion kilowatthours from Canada. This represented about 9.6% of the total consumption in Canada, but only about 1% of the total generation in the U.S. About 55% of the electricity imported from Canada was consumed in New York and the New England states. The 24.0 billion kilowatthours imported to New York and New England represented around 10% of the total demand in those regions. This is a significantly greater portion of the demand than could have been met by the nearly 1 million tons of Virginia sourced steam coal burnt in power plants in the northeastern portion of the United States. As coal mining in the Commonwealth of Virginia begins a downturn, from peak production in 1990 of 46.5 million tons, the import of electrical power from Canada appears to have little impact on the production of steam coal in Virginia. The longer term future of coal mining in Virginia appears to be in the extraction of thin seams, more suitable for the metallurgical than the steam market. The higher mining costs, in the thinner seams, is offset by the higher sales prices on the metallurgical market.