In an industry that’s struggling to balance its finances, utilities and customers alike have been facing a sudden spike in emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) that fuels the burning of fossil fuels.
And that, according to a new report by a leading environmental and advocacy group, is the case in much of the country.
“If you go to the pump, you’re looking at CO2 that’s about 10 times higher than in 2010,” said Bob Hulsey, senior research analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“And the electricity grid is basically still the same as it was in 2010.
It’s basically the same in the big cities.
The major cities are just a smidge less carbon intensive.”
The report, which was released on Tuesday, is based on new data collected by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) showing the carbon footprint of US power plants grew from 2009 to 2020, the last year for which data is available.
The EIA said power plants accounted for about 20 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
But as a result, power plants have continued to use up the nation’s already-overburdened supply of natural gas and have made a habit of buying more and more renewable energy.
The average amount of carbon emitted per megawatt-hour in 2020 was 5.6 tonnes CO2 per megawaratt-hours.
In 2020, that equated to the CO2 released from about 3,000 coal-fired power plants, according the EIA.
By comparison, the emissions from the average residential electricity plant was 3.3 tonnes CO3 per megwatt-h, or about 1,800 tonnes.
The CO2 emitted from the electric power sector averaged 3.6 tons, or 1,900 tonnes.
“In 2020, we’re using more and the CO 2 emissions are up,” Hulys said.
“We’re using less and that’s the biggest reason we’re not using more.”
Energy and water conservation The EIA report found that as a percentage of total energy usage, the proportion of electricity generated by renewables declined from 34.4 per cent in 2010 to 31.4 in 2020.
This marked the first time in US history that the proportion declined to below 30 per cent.
The proportion of energy used by natural gas declined from 31.2 per cent to 31 per cent, as did the proportion used by wind and solar.
As a percentage, water use declined from 1.6 per cent per megawatts to 1.4, which is about the same level of use as it used to be.
The energy efficiency of the power system, however, increased dramatically in the years after the EAA report was published in 2011.
It rose from 16.4 percent in 2010, when the report was released, to 20.1 percent in 2020, when it was released in January.
The report also found that in 2020 about 13 per cent more power plants were producing electricity than they did in 2009.
That was largely a result of natural-gas-fired generation.
The total power plant energy use, however was down from 18.7 per cent the previous year.
Natural gas has been a significant contributor to energy supply since the EAG study in 2011, but has not replaced coal in the electricity generation mix.
The decline in natural gas has also been a major contributor to the decline in coal consumption, as well.