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Constellation’s Proportion of Coal Up After Nuclear Sales

Constellation Energy’s proportion of electricity from combustion sources has risen because of the company’s selling equity in its nuclear power plants, according to the company’s 2010 corporate social responsibility report.

The company says that before 2010, it owned 100 percent of the emissions-free generation from five nuclear power units at three locations. It now shares ownership with EDF Group, though Constellation remains the majority owner.

As a result, the company’s annual electricity production has decreased, and the proportion of its generation made from coal-fired facilities has increased, increasing the CO2 intensity of its generation, the report said.

Absolute greenhouse gas emissions from its electricity generation also rose seven percent from 2009 to 2010, from 15.27 million to 16.29 million metric tons of CO2e. Total scope one emissions rose six percent, from 15.68 million to 16.69 million metric tons.

The report said that 45 percent of the electricity Constellation generates is from nuclear power, and its power plants emit less CO2 per megawatt hour of electricity generated than most of Constellation’s industry peers.

Constellation says that in recent years, it has been able to use about 60 percent of its ash byproducts in production processes, well above the 40 percent industry average reported by the National Mining Association.

The company is continuing remediation and community relations work in relation to the use of ash as engineered fill for land reclamation in Gambrills, Md. This fill activity was permitted by the state, Constellation says, but in the course of groundwater monitoring the company identified increasing levels of metals or sulfates. It entered into a Consent Decree with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) in 2007 and settled a lawsuit brought by some residents in 2008.

During 2010, the utility says it worked closely with MDE on developing a comprehensive remediation plan for the site, including the installation of additional wells, and monitoring and treatment of the groundwater. Commercial development of the site has begun, and once completed will seal the site permanently, the report said. The company anticipates that its installation of a new water line to extend the public water system for local residents will be complete by the end of 2011.

The company estimates, using the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) water tool, that it uses and return approximately 6.5 billion cubic meters of water each year. Constellation’s 200 MW West Valley gas-fired peaking plant near Salt Lake City, Utah, has been identified as being in an area of extreme water scarcity, and the company says it is working to improve water monitoring and management.

Constellation developed its first-ever set of corporate sustainability goals last year. Some of the goals include:

  • Between 2010 and 2015, enabling customers to avoid a total of 7 million tons of CO2
  • Rolling out a smart grid initiative at subsidiary Baltimore Gas and Electric, to be fully operational with two million smart meters by mid-2014.
  • No violation of environmental standards
  • Receiving ISO 14001 certifications for several facilities by 2015

The company projects that the GHG emissions intensity of its generation fleet will decrease by five percent from 2010 levels by 2015.

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