Carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector have declined 28% since 2005

From EIA

From December 17 through December 31, Today in Energy will feature a selection of our favorite articles from 2018. Today’s article was originally published on October 29. EIA’s forecast for energy-related CO2 emissions was detailed in another article.

main

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2017


U.S. electric power sector carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) have declined 28% since 2005 because of slower electricity demand growth and changes in the mix of fuels used to generate electricity. EIA has calculated that CO2 emissions from the electric power sector totaled 1,744 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2017, the lowest level since 1987.

In the United States, most of the changes in energy-related CO2 emissions have been in the power sector. Since 2005, as power sector CO2 emissions fell by 28%, CO2 emissions from all other energy sectors fell by only 5%. Slower electricity demand growth and changes in the electricity generation mix have played nearly equal roles in reducing U.S. power sector CO2 emissions.

U.S. electricity demand has decreased in 6 of the past 10 years, as industrial demand has declined and residential and commercial demand has remained relatively flat. If electricity demand had continued to increase at the average rate from 1996 to 2005 (1.9% per year) instead of its actual average rate of -0.1% per year, U.S. power sector CO2 emissions in 2017 would have been about 654 MMmt more than actual 2017 levels. If the mix of fuels used to generate electricity had also stayed the same since 2005, U.S. power sector CO2 emissions would have been another 645 MMt higher in 2017.

The power sector has become less carbon intensive as natural gas-fired generation displaced coal-fired and petroleum-fired generation and as the noncarbon sources of electricity generation—especially renewables such as wind and solar—have grown. The substitution of natural gas for other fossil fuels has largely been market driven, as ample supplies of lower-priced natural gas and the relative ease of adding natural gas-fired capacity have allowed it to pick up share in electric power generation in many markets. In 2016, natural gas generation surpassed coal as the largest source of electricity generation.

Increases in electricity generation from noncarbon power sources since 2005 also had an effect on emissions from power generation. This growth has been driven largely by state policies and federal tax incentives that encouraged adoption of renewables. In 2005, noncarbon sources accounted for 28% of the U.S. electricity mix. By 2017, that share had grown to 38%. Almost all of this growth was in renewables, including wind and solar, as shares for other noncarbon sources such as nuclear and hydroelectricity remained relatively flat.

chart2

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Monthly Energy Review


Principal contributor: Perry Lindstrom

HT/MikeM

Advertisements

69 thoughts on “Carbon dioxide emissions from the U.S. power sector have declined 28% since 2005

  1. Reduced CO2 going into the atmosphere? That is great news! I think I will drive to the supermarket in my SUV and buy a big steak, then fire up the barbecue, cook it well-done, and eat it on a plastic plate! Is this a great life or what?

    • It’s a good thing that China is making up for reduced US CO2 contributions to the greening of the biosphere.
      If only we could get them to clean up their REAL sources of pollution.

    • While I concur it is fun to poke holes in the alarmists forecasts and dire, calamitous “might happen” scenarios, we skeptics really need to hammer the fundamental falsity of the CAGW premise.

      That is: there is no evidence whatsoever that CO2 has any discernible effect on atmospheric temperatures.

      Also, no correlation between atmospheric CO2 and frequency, intensity, or duration of “unusual” weather events. Or droughts. Or forest fires. Or sea-level change.

      The only significant correlations documented are those between rising CO2 and global vegetation cover, and between rising CO2 and global crop yields.

      Win-Win, in my humble opinion.

  2. Another plus which is likely played out, is the transfer of pumped storage hydro energy capacity from baseload excess to renewable excess. Originally pumped storage capacity was created to allow cheap baseload excess energy fom one time during the day to a timewhne demand exceeded baseload output and thus avoid having to burnas much very expensive natural gas peak load generators. With the enormous drop in natural gas prices, that pumped storage became available to store renewaableenergy. Virgina has the largest capacity pumped storage facilty and as I recall, all of Virginia’s renewable power dumped unceremoniously and unrequested was sent to the pumped storage facility, to be used to generate hydro when needed during high demand.

    • Bath County Pumped Storage Station; largest in world; 24 GWh @ 3 GW. About eight hours of storage at full capacity.

    • Well, it’s good there’s a way to use excess renewable power, though I’m sure it doesn’t always work out that way.

      Pumped storage is a great idea but the capacity is quite small in the scheme of things, is it not? AFAIK there’s only one such facility in NC, and that’s above SC’s Lake Keowee. I remember seeing it built in the 70’s.s

      • Bad Creek Hydro. Duke uses the Oconee nuclear plant on Keowee to pump water up from L. Jocasse at night. Bad Creek reservoir level can drop 100′ during the day when they generate. Knew a guy who worked as an intern there during construction. Pictures he showed me of the inside of the penstock were amazing. A dump truck looked like a Tonka toy. I looked at buying a house a few miles from there. Beautiful area.

  3. Germany, green as green can be, spend half a trillion on their renewables “Energiewende” and achieve zero reduction in CO2.

    The USA elects Donald Trump, and achieves a 28% reduction in CO2 emissions from the electricity sector.

    The race is not always to the swift …

    • Give Obama some credit, by destroying the economy and preventing recovery he undoubtedly contributed to the lower demand growth that is the largest wedge in the first chart above.

      • Exactly, Walter.

        Here’s the quote from the article:

        “U.S. electricity demand has decreased in 6 of the past 10 years, as industrial demand has declined and residential and commercial demand has remained relatively flat.”

        end excerpt

        Industrial demand has picked up since 2017. It would be interesting to see the U.S. electricity demand figures for 2017 and 2018, and if US CO2 production has increased as a result.

        The U.S. and free enterprise are showing the way here. If you want to reduce CO2 production then go with gas-fired powerplants. If you want to reduce a *lot* of CO2 production then go with gas-fired and nuclear powerplants. Greens and alarmists need to understand that nuclear power is a low-risk endeavor. Certainly compared to the supposed destruction of humanity by increased CO2 production.

        It’s not a perfect world. You have to make choices. The solution is right in front of your eyes, and it’s not windmills and solar. They will never power the world. Give it up. Go nuclear. That’s the future if humanity is to thrive..

        • Unfortunately nuclear has had another huge black eye that will slow it’s rebirth down to a crawl. V C Summer plant in South Carolina has been put on hold and massive fraud and waste was found to be part of the project. Corruption appears to have been rampart. The reactor and turbine supplier declared bankruptcy. 8 billion dollars and no power produced at all.

          Southern Company had a similar issue with a similar plant. It appears that this one may be completed. Time will tell.

          Technically I believe that nuclear has to be a big part of the mix. However perception can get in the way.

      • What was Obama’s quote?:

        “If somebody wants to build a coal-fired power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.”

        and later,

        “Under my plan … electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”

      • Obama destroyed the economy? That’s a joke. The economy was destroyed on George Bush’s watch, and actually recovered quite nicely under Obama.

        Were you not around during the last 10 years?

        • Bush didn’t cause the problems with the bad bank loans. In fact, Bush tried to fix the loan programs but Rep. Barney Frank and the Democrats prevented him from doing so.

          A little history: The Clinton/Gore recession (the Dot Com Bubble bursting) began in March 2000. Interestingly, Clinton and Gore and the Leftwing News Media tried to blame Bush for the recession claiming Bush was “talking down the economy” and that’s why the stock market was headed south. This all took place during the runup to the 2000 presidential election in November of that year, and is the reason the Democrats were trying to blame Bush for the recession that began on their watch. SOP for the Democrats. They and the Leftwing News Media have been lying for a long time about Republicans and conservatives. Fake News didn’t just start when Trump took Office.

          So the U.S. was in a recession when Bush took Office and then on Sept. 11, 2001, the stock market took another big hit with the terrorist attacks.

          The economy finally started growing and the rest of Bush’s term was pretty good financially until right before he left Office in 2008, when the bank loan/derivatives problem reared its ugly head.

          Bush took measures to address the economic downturn and then Obama came into Office and implemented Bush’s measures and some of his own. This stopped the bleeding but the US economy was sluggish for Obama’s entire two terms.

          Obama did everything wrong as far as getting an economy back on its feet. He raised the price of energy and he wrote uncounted pages of new regulations on everything imaginable. All of this restricted economic growth.

          The US economy doesn’t need a president to preside over it, the free market system can take care of itself. And it does pretty good all by itself, no president needed.

          Presidents can help or harm the economy in a few ways. Taxes can be cut and regulations can be eliminated, and energy prices can be kept low, which frees up business to grow and expand.

          Obama raised taxes, increased regulations by leaps and bounds, and raised energy prices. Just the opposite of what should be done to stimulate the economy. As a result, the US economy grew very slowly for all of Obama’s two terms.

          Trump reversed all these burdens on the economy that Obama imposed and the US economy is now booming.

          It’s not that difficult to figure out. Unless, of course, one is a control freak, like most on the Left.

          • 1) The third week of Jan 2009.
            2) President’s can and do control exploration for oil on federal lands. Obama stopped everything that hadn’t already been contracted out.
            3) Dave, I’m guessing in your world, president’s are dictators that just sign new laws into existence. In this world, nothing happens unless the House and Senate agree, and in the Senate at the time, the fillibuster still rules and the Republicans did not have enough votes to over ride the Democrat fillibuster on these issues.
            4) I’m guessing that Dave actually believes that a growth of 1 and 2% in the economy is a good thing. Most other president’s managed to average well above 3% during their terms, Obama never came even close to that mark.

          • PS: Under Obama, total unemployment reached levels not seen since Saint FDR created the Great Depression. PS: Anyone dumb enough to directly compare official unemployment numbers now and from the 30’s without accounting for the dozens of ways that number has been changed since then, is probably dumb enough to be a liberal.

          • The “Bush economy” did very well for many years.
            Then Pelosi took charge in 2007, and the economy began failing as oil prices when she started “fighting climate change (er, global warming)” by restricting production, and changing oileg’s and increasing economic regulations nationwide. 15 months after Pelosi began running policy by publicity and by laws she allowed to be passed, HER economy was successfully destroyed in summer 2008. As required to bring Obola into power over a weak-willed republican insider. The DAY AFTER Obola was defeated (er, Hillary as anointed successor was defeated), Trump’s economy began growing.
            Two weeks AFTER Pelosi grabbed control of COngress (with the help of rampant voter fraud in California), HER economy began tanking.

          • A very mild recession started in 1929, it took Roosevelt and his taxes and regulations to turn it into the Great Depression.

          • 1) Correct, but irrelevant.
            2) Obama also refused to grant permission to start drilling. He put many other road blocks in the path of oil production. Funny how production on private land was able to sky rocket during Obama’s term, however according to the acolytes, the fact that public lands languished was beyond his control.
            3) The banking/credit industry is the most highly regulated in the country.
            4) 2% was Obama’s high.

        • I was, apparently you weren’t.
          The problems that came to a head when Bush the younger was president were created during Carter’s maladministration and made much worse while Clinton was busy fooling around with the office help.
          As to your claim that the economy recovered quite nicely under Obama, once again you are imagining things that never happened.
          The economy did improve, however it was the weakest most anemic recovery ever recorded. Not once during his 8 years did the economy grow by even 3%, a dubious distinction that no other president ever managed.

          • Nice use of bogus logic there.
            I blame Obama because Obama was responsible.
            I credit Bush because Bush was responsible.

            The best you seem to be able to do is to desperately try to tie the calendar to what happened without considering why those things happened.

          • @Dave Burton:

            Nice way to answer a question never asked! The GP stated:

            “Not once during his 8 years did the economy grow by even 3%, a dubious distinction that no other president ever managed.”

            You list Presidents by average over their entire term. Here’s the facts:

            Eisenhower: 7.1% in 1955 and 6.9% in 1959
            Nixon: 1971-1973: 3.3%, 5.3%, 5.6%
            Carter: 1977-1979: 4.6%, 5.5%, 3.2%
            Bush Sr: 1992: 3.5%
            Bush Jr: 2004-2005: 3.8%, 3.5%
            Obama: never

            The GP was correct; your attempt to deflect failed.

          • No, Dave, ShanghaiDan was spot on about your deflection. The claim made was “Not once during his 8 years did the economy grow by even 3%, a dubious distinction that no other president ever managed.” and you listed a bunch of presidents who did manage to have economies that grew > 3% by pointing to a different measure – instead of addressing the point made you deflected to address a different point.

          • You cherry pick the years of comparison to hide the fact that during many of presidents had a nasty recession during their term

            When growth is so anemic, as under Obama, you don’t need a recession to get low numbers as you are already there. A recovery that doesn’t recover isn’t much of a recovery.

    • Trump had nothing to do with reduced CO2 emissions.

      In a large sense we got lucky. Natural gas prices went down and renewable capacity went up.

      Gas prices could go up again and coal would become more attractive.

      • Natural gas just happened to go down, all by itself.
        It really is fascinating how hard you work to spin this fantasy world of yours. One in which everything bad is always someone else’s fault.

        • MarkW What are you talking about? Did gas prices go down, or didn’t they?

          They went down due to improved gas recovery, mostly as a result of fracking, which increased supply dramatically.

          And please enlighten me on what my “fantasy world” is.

  4. Excerpted from published article:

    EIA has calculated that CO2 emissions from the electric power sector totaled 1,744 million metric tons (MMmt) in 2017, the lowest level since 1987.

    Iffen ya look in the following ML data ya can see that 1,744,000,000 (1.7 billion) metric tons of CO2 that assisted in the +1.79 ppm increase in fiscal 2017.

    But you hafta look really close enough because that “power sector” CO2 is hidden right behind the CO2 that was outgassed from the warming ocean waters. To wit:

    2016 12 2016.958 404.45 404.45 405.08 30
    2017 1 2017.042 406.17 406.17 405.88 26
    2017 2 2017.125 406.46 406.46 405.66 26
    2017 3 2017.208 407.22 407.22 405.72 23
    2017 4 2017.292 409.04 409.04 406.24 25
    2017 5 2017.375 409.69 409.69 406.34 27
    2017 6 2017.458 408.88 408.88 406.58 26
    2017 7 2017.542 407.12 407.12 406.73 28
    2017 8 2017.625 405.13 405.13 407.02 29
    2017 9 2017.708 403.37 403.37 406.95 26
    2017 10 2017.792 403.63 403.63 407.00 27
    2017 11 2017.875 405.12 405.12 407.08 26
    2017 12 2017.958 406.81 406.81 407.44 31
    2018 1 2018.042 407.96 407.96 407.67 29
    ……………2017 increase…………… +1.79 ppm
    ftp://aftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/products/trends/co2/co2_mm_mlo.txt

  5. If you extrapolate the graph in the way global warming alarmists do with modelled temperatures, the US will be down to zero emissions by 2055!

  6. ====================================================================================
    “Industrial demand has declined and residential and commercial demand has remained relatively flat.”

    Nothing to do with declining manufacturing or high consumer and business power costs I guess. Must be the renewables then.

    • A decade or so ago, lighting accounted for about 5% of total US energy usage.
      Since flourescents were already a non-trivial fraction of the total and things like street lights, had shifted to less inefficient forms years ago (20 to 30% efficient as opposed to 10% for run of the mill incandescents), it’s highly unlikely the shift to LEDs has caused more than a 1% drop in total energy usage.

      I’m assuming that the drop in AC requirements is pretty much matched by the increase in heating requirements when averaged over a year and across the country.

    • U.S. electricity demand has decreased in 6 of the past 10 years, as industrial demand has declined and residential and commercial demand has remained relatively flat.

      It makes perfectly good sense to claim that industrial demand for electricity had DECREASED for all 8 years of the Obama Presidency.

      Industrial demand for electricity is down whenever unemployment is dastardly high, to wit:
      2008 7.3%
      2009 9.9%
      2010 9.3%
      2011 8.5%
      2012 7.9%
      2013 6.7%
      2014 5.6%
      2015 5.0%
      https://www.thebalance.com/unemployment-rate-by-year-3305506

      But residential and commercial demand for electricity should have increased during the past 10 years simply because the US population increased by 23.7 million people, to wit:

      US population 304.1 million (2008)
      US population 327.8 million (2018)

      Of course, “junking out” old TVs, old PCs and old Microwave Ovens might have helped a wee bit.

  7. I have been noticing something. It seems it is the “wealthy” countries that are reducing emissions. And why would that be, you ask? Maybe it is due to clean, inexpensive and available energy. Ya think?

    • Bill,
      It is in part the result of handing off energy intensive manufacturing to China and other Asian countries. The consumers can crow about how small their carbon footprint is because they don’t take into account the energy necessary to manufacture the goods that they are still willingly buying.

      • Exactly.

        This was all known back in the days of the Kyoto Protocol.

        But for lots of people, these climate changes games are really not about temperature or climate at all. It is about redistribution.

  8. Chicanery comes in three flavors… lies, dâhmned lies, and statistics.

    Its so lovely when good old fashioned linear regression models and projections are used to “pastcast the future”, then compare that future to the present. The graph at the top does the job well.

    Bottom line couldn’t be simpler: we’re becoming more energy efficient, per capita, and possibly even absolute. We’re also becoming “greener”, much tho’ it is laughed at hearticly on this very weblog. The combination, the redirecting from high-carbon intensity coal to low carbon-intensity methane, the incorporation of substantial wind and solar facilities municipal-to-domestic is having a measurable carbon intensity reduction effect.

    And we really ought to be embracing this as long as it makes economic sense in the future. No magic unicorn horn dust, no WL (LENR) magic energy reactors, no liquid thorium salt nuclear … just higher efficiencies, less power waste, even more domestic co-production (rooftop), and continued substitution of natural gas for conventional coal, where economically provident.

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy

    • And we really ought to be embracing this as long as it makes economic sense in the future.

      Then we should be embracing it sometime in the distant future?

      It didn’t make “economic sense” yesterday, ….. it doesn’t make “economic sense” today, ….. and it won’t be making “economic sense” tomorrow or any day thereafter.

      • In some places, already, it does make sense. In Kalifornia, for example, in my town of Hayward, it makes sense domestically. I have a copy of an invoice that a neighbor paid — in unsubsidized cash — to a Big Three (local) solar power system installer. 10 kW (peak) of panels, south facing existing roof mounted. It produces about 35 kWh/day in winter, and over 70 kWh/day in summer. Owner has to spray it off with a “fireman style” hose attachment every 3–4 weeks to keep output at the top.

        She paid $18,000 for the system. Installed, code-certified, proper electrics, all in. It doesn’t have a battery, so when it ain’t producing, she has to tap The Grid. But she also has a cute little persimmon orange Fiat 500e, which during the day is definitely “using up the juice” to whatever extent it wants.

        System has a projected life of 20–25 years, and a yearly oops-it-needs-fixing cost of about $500 a year. The maintenance company just charges $45 a month with a “zero-copay” fix-it-for-free policy. Seems OK as long as they stay in business.

        Calculate that out, and it turns into:

        Winter 35 kWh/day
        Spring 50 kWh/day
        Summer 70 kWh/day
        Fall 50 kWh/day

        Using Excel’s “pmt(rate, term, amount) function, plus ¹⁄₃₆₅ of $500/year as the cost-of-ownership equation (and 6%/year interest), we come up with:

        Winter = 16.0 ¢/kWh
        Spring = 11.2 ¢/kWh
        Summer = 8.1 ¢/kWh
        Autumn = 11.2 ¢/kWh

        In Kalifornia, in my utility district, our base electricity rate is 18.3 ¢/kWh. After about 10 kWh/day of use, it dramatically rises to 23 ¢/kWh. Doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about winter or summer, spring or fall … if you’re actually able to USE all the power your system generates, then you have a real savings.

        She — being an accountant, so good with numbers — figures that she’s buying a NET of less than 2,000 kWh a year from the local utility over the grid, with no month or quarter being “negative” consumption (i.e. not sending the grid free power!). $500 a year for grid power.

        Blended cost is 2.9 ¢/mile in Summer to 4.1 ¢/mile for her Fiat 500e, in Winter. That… ladies and gentlegoats, is WAY cheaper than even a super-economy car (i.e. 35+ MPG) running on Bubba & Sandy’s Suspect Gasoline at $3.08 a gallon (here in Kali).

        Just saying,
        GoatGuy

        • Subsidies to keep the cost of solar systems down.
          Mandated must buy for the electricity generated at rates WAY, WAY above wholesale.
          Ridiculous taxes and regulations to make conventionally generated power way more expensive than other places.

          It may be true that in The People’s Republic of California, solar may make economic sense, but this has nothing whatsoever to do with the imagined virtues of solar power.

        • PS: The “projected” life will never happen.
          The guarentee is no doubt heavily pro-rated.
          You are assuming that the arrays are going to be producing their day one output for the entirety of their “projected” life.

        • PPS: Your power/day figures are equally unrealistic. You seem to be assuming no clouds and are assuming that the arrays are optimally aligned to the sun all day long and all year long.
          Finally how often does the lady climb up on her roof to clean dust and bird poop off the arrays?
          BTW, be careful not to scratch the glass while cleaning the dust off. Scratches reduce efficiency.

          • cleaning – he says “Owner has to spray it off with a “fireman style” hose attachment every 3–4 weeks to keep output at the top”

            clouds don’t make that much difference over a week/month/year. and in California, when is demand greatest and clouds fewest?

        • Problem is that where I live, which has not been infected with renewable subsidies and utility renewable mandates my electric rate is less than any of those even in the summer.
          As an accountant she should have done a future value calculation. I have done one every 3 or five years and it always shows that I am cash ahead by investing in a S&P mutuial fund. And that assumes I get a tax rebate on the system. With payments and maintenance I am loosing money big time.

        • in my town of Hayward, it makes sense domestically. I have a copy of an invoice that a neighbor paid.

          Shur nuff, GoatGuy, iffen ya look you can usually find an exception.

          And GG, iffen you installed a 100 gal aluminum water tank in the attic of your home you could be saving a couple $100 per year in “hot water” heating expenses …… with the tank paying for itself and its installation in 24 months.

  9. Have to wonder if this analysis is just looking at electrical generation costs/emisssion or if it includes all the energy needed to create and eventually decommission the new fleets of turbines, solar arrays, and other generation as well as the impact on natural landscapes and their ability to absrorb CO2. I don’t personally care about CO2 emissions – the more the merrier, as long as real pollution is managed, but without including the life cycle costs/emissions from various forms of generation the analysis may not be very informative.

  10. Just imagine how much lower it would be if the money the government spent on renewables and subsidies was spent on nuclear power plants.

    • Nuclear is a great idea -until you come to the (never properly accounted for) decommissioning and late life maintenance costs. Yes France has a great nuclear ‘fleet’ but is has almost bankrupt EDF and a huge percentage of it has been offline over the last 2 years for upgrade/maintenance (with German power exports keeping France lit up).

      • Doubtful that you are aware of the fact that in the USA the NRC has regulations assuring that sufficient funds are placed in an account that can only be used for decommissioning expenses. The NRC audits this account and the utility submits periodic reports to the NRC on the fund, earnings and projected value. The consumer pays a few Mills per KWH to fund this. Typical NPP has it sufficiently funded in less than twenty years.
        Now explain to me how Solar and wind assures the decommissioning will be taking care of and paid for. Check out the abandoned wind turbines in California that they are only removing to make space for new.

Comments are closed.