by Zachary Shahan
As required by Congress, the EPA recently released annual greenhouse gas data “detailing carbon pollution emissions and trends broken down by industrial sector, greenhouse gas, geographic region, and individual facility.”
Interestingly, in 2012, coal-fired electricity generation increased while natural gas generation decreased considerably. This is counter to all the talk about the shale gas revolution (“bridge,” if you’re optimistic), including a line right in the first paragraph of the EPA press release.
“The data, required to be collected annually by Congress, highlight a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions as more utilities switch to cleaner burning natural gas.”
Despite coal generation increasing, natural gas generation decreased so much that overall fossil fuel generation fell by 36.4 million MWh. Here’s a table with more details:
So, what made up for that electricity generation drop?
First and foremost, reiterating a recent statement by the International Energy Agency, it seems that energy efficiency and energy conservation did. However, the other main contributor to the cut in global warming pollution was clearly renewable energy generation, especially generation from wind energy. Wind power plants contributed a significant 17.7 million MWh of additional electricity generation in 2012.
If you are under the odd impression that more wind power doesn’t equal less global warming pollution, please use some common sense and also check out a recent study we reported on that shows how little backup power is actually needed for wind power, even at relatively high penetration levels. In other words, accept the fact that wind power is extremely effective at cutting global warming pollution.
As REVE notes: “What lesson can we draw from this data? While some of the emissions reductions noted by the EPA are fleeting, wind energy is a key contributor to the long-lasting strategy for reducing U.S. carbon emissions.“
If you’re wondering what’s up with the EPA’s statement that the switch to natural gas has resulted in a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, the statement is based on generation change over the course of two years (2011 and 2012), not just 2012.
“The 2012 data show that in the two years since reporting began, emissions from power plants have decreased 10 percent. This is due to a switch from coal to natural gas for electricity generation and a slight decrease in electricity production.”
Spin natural gas however you want, but please stop ignoring the fact that increasing renewable energy generation has a very strong, lasting impact on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Also, let’s just hope that methane leaks from using natural gas aren’t considerably greater than projected (I can’t say I’m optimistic about that), and that, if natural gas really is notably greener, that natural gas rebounds and cuts coal generation considerably again… as we ramp up renewable energy faster and faster, since that is the only long-term solution in this sector anyway.
This article, Wind Power Has Dramatically Cut Global Warming Pollution In The U.S., is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.
About the Author
Zachary Shahan is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he’s the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he’s the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.
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Energy efficiency is the world’s most important “fuel” according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). Investments in energy efficiency provide such massive savings that the energy saved actually completely eclipses the energy generated by most forms of generation. This “first fuel” is incredibly important to the world’s efforts to reduce fossil fuel use and carbon emissions and should be focused on even more, the new report argues.
The Energy Efficiency Market Report, as its known, states that “the scale of recent investment in energy efficiency worldwide makes it as significant in its contribution to energy demand as investment in renewable energy or fossil fuel generation.”
“Energy efficiency has been called a ‘hidden fuel’, yet it is hiding in plain sight,” stated IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven. “Indeed, the degree of global investment in energy efficiency and the resulting energy savings are so massive that they beg the following question: is energy efficiency not just a hidden fuel but rather the world’s first fuel?”
The report notes that, worldwide, in 2011, energy efficiency schemes attracted about $300 billion in investment funds — which puts it on about the same level as global investments in fossil-fuel power generation or renewable energy.
PV-Tech provides more:
Between 2005 and 2010, the IEA calculated that energy efficiency measures across 11 of its member countries (Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States) saved the energy equivalent of US$420 billion worth of oil.
In these same countries, the IEA said that were it not for energy efficiency measures implemented in the past three years, consumers would be using and paying for two-thirds more energy than is the case. Overall, in 2010 energy savings from efficiency measures exceeded the output from any other single fuel source in these same countries, with the 11 IEA countries avoiding burning 1.5 billion tonnes of oil equivalent thanks to efficiency improvements developed since 1974.
The report notes that the driving force behind this huge increase in energy efficiency investment and adoption is, simultaneously, the implementation of effective policies and the rising price of energy, especially oil. With the price of fossil fuels rising, there really isn’t much choice for many governments/businesses/individuals but to be more energy efficient.
Brian Smithers, the strategic director for Northern Europe at the UK-based renewable energy products and services distributor Rexel, states:
It’s about time the role of energy efficiency was recognized on a global scale, so it’s great to see the IEA placing it alongside traditional as well as renewable fuels. However, if we are to shift the perception of energy efficiency from a ‘hidden fuel’ to the world’s ‘first fuel’ we need to invest in education.
In the UK, for example, there is a huge lack of awareness around energy efficiency, which is seriously hampering our progress against carbon reduction targets. To put it simply, to meet the UK’s carbon reduction targets by 2050, we need to improve one home every minute, equating to 26 million refurbished energy-efficient homes by 2050.
This article, Energy Efficiency Is The World’s Most Important “Fuel,” IEA Says In New Report, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.
About the Author
Nathan For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. – Ecclesiastes 3:19