Electric producers in the US have significantly reduced emissions of key air pollutants by 15 percent between 2005 and 2014 and may have dropped another 6 percent in 2015. That’s despite a growing economy and increased electric generation.
A new report from Ceres, a sustainability focussed nonprofit organization, found that emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and mercury emissions in the US are now close to their levels in 1990. In fact, the report found that in 2014 SO2 and NOx emissions were 80 percent and 75 percent lower, respectively, than in 1990.
The report, “Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States,” analyzed emissions from the nation’s 100 largest electric producers. The power producers in the study make up 85 percent of the US’s power production.
“The nation’s electric power providers are in the midst of an unprecedented shift toward cleaner sources of energy,” said Dan Bakal, director of electric power at Ceres. “Yet progress is uneven, which highlights the need for many of the nation’s power providers to accelerate their transition to cleaner resources and lower carbon emissions.”
Certain electric producers, companies like NRG Energy and Berkshire Hathaway have made significant investments in renewable energy like wind and solar. Other companies like NextEra Energy have made significant investments into natural gas generation to help reduce their emissions. Still, the report observed that “There is still significant variability among power producers, with some power providers achieving fleet-wide CO2 emissions rates that are 10 times lower than others.”
Still, “Power plants are pouring out less and less of the carbon pollution driving climate change. And America is embracing the benefits of clean energy,” stated Starla Yeh, senior policy analyst in the Climate and Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Renewable energy is widely expected to continue its strong growth, which will put the electricity sector in an excellent position to help the U.S. meet its international commitments. We must reach this milestone to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”
Three main things are driving the change energy efficiency improvements, coal plant retirements and in increase in cleaner and zero-emission resources like natural gas, wind and solar power. The report observed further that wind and solar power capacity have more than doubled in the past five years and now produce more than 100 gigawatts of the nation’s electric generation—comparable to the nation’s hydropower generation.Tweet