Latest Data: What Produced Our Zero-Emission Electricity?


93.5% of December’s zero-emissions electricity from nuclear, hydro, wind.

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Yesterday's column said that zero-emissions electricity amounted to an impressive 37.4 percent of grid electricity in December 2015. It looks like we have the greenest grid in anyone's memory.

Where did that 120,633 thousand megawatt-hours of electricity come from that emitted no greenhouse gases? Including the clean power produced by distributed generation.

The grid made 99.4 percent of the clean power, while distributed generators made 0.6 percent. About half of the distributed generation came from solar at residences, 0.3 percent, and the other half from solar at businesses and government, 0.3 percent.

The grid's zero-emission triad made 93.5 percent of the clean power. Nuclear plants produced 57.7 percent. Hydro facilities produced 19.2 percent. Wind farms produced 16.6 percent.

The remainder was made by the grid's solar farms, geothermal installations and biomass plants. The grid's solar farms produced about two-thirds of all solar power, with distributed residential producing about a sixth and distributed commercial/government producing about a sixth as well.

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Distributed residential solar and commercial/government solar continue to make relatively small contributions to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This was diminished by the less sunny month of December. On average, distributed residential solar produced 519 megawatt-hours during each hour of December. 

So if a single small nuclear unit went off-line, this would totally wipe out the emissions benefit of all residential solar nationwide. Every nuclear unit is vital to reinforce the emissions benefits of renewables development, by the grid and by distributed generators. The major hydro units are key as well.

Your hundreds of e-mails in response to these columns are appreciated by all of us at Public Utilities Fortnightly. Whether you have something to say about one of the whimsical columns or a serious number-cruncher like this one, let us know. 

Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly
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