With a slower economy and mild weather, 2008 proved to be good for utilities’ carbon emissions bottom line.
Following years of steady growth in power plant emissions, total U.S. power plant carbon emissions fell 3.1 percent in 2008, according to the Environmental Integrity Project.
U.S. gross electrical output was down 3.3 percent in 2008, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The drop in carbon emissions is not expected to be a lasting trend. The Environmental Integrity Project points to Department of Energy data that suggests power-related carbon emissions will jump 15 percent between 2009 and 2030. This is primarily because of permits issued for new or expanded coal plants.
While 2008 saw 1,392 megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity, new permits will result in 26,131 megawatts in coming years, reports the National Energy Technology Laboratory.
According to a press release, states with the largest emissions increases over the past decade, from 1998 to 2008, are:
- Texas (26.9 million tons)
- Arizona (22.6 million)
- California (18.8 million)
- Georgia (17.7 million)
- Illinois (17.7 million)
- Oklahoma (16.6 million)
- Alabama (8.9 million)
- South Carolina (7.5 million)
- Colorado (6.7 million) and
- Iowa (6 million).
Some power plants are decreasing their carbon emissions. By closing old power plants and increasing efficiency in energy transmission and distribution systems and its buildings, Exelon Corp. on April 7 said it slashed greenhouse-gas emissions by 35 percent when compared to 2001 levels, according to the Los Angeles Times.
By 2020, Exelon says it plans to reduce, offset or displace 15 million metric tons of carbon emissions by 2020.
Citing an increase in carbon dioxide emissions from fuel and electricity consumption, a draft report from the Environmental Protection Agency shows that overall emissions rose 1.4 percent during 2007, as compared to the previous year.
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totaled about 7,125 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2007, according to “Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2007 draft report.”