The Energy Department released its March 2018 data. Today, I’ll summarize our analysis of the grid’s carbon dioxide emissions in the first quarter.
The grid’s emissions are almost entirely from coal and natural gas power plant production. In the first quarter, coal plants produced 281.4 million megawatt-hours, down 3.6 percent from last year’s first quarter. Natural gas plants produced 309.8 million megawatt-hours, up 15.9 percent from last year.
Using Energy Department estimates of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt-hour of coal and natural gas plants, coal plants emitted 281.7 million metric tons and natural gas plants emitted 132.9 million. The total, 414.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.
This level was virtually equal to emissions during the first quarter of 2016. And 1.9 percent above the lowest level in decades during a first quarter, set last year.
The first quarters of 2016, 2017 and 2018 had unprecedented low emissions of carbon dioxide. In this century, only two other years had emissions less than 500 million metric tons.
In the first quarter of 2015, emissions were slightly below 500 million. In the first quarter of 2012, emissions were 466.2 million. This was a record low at the time. But it was still over 50 million more than in any of the last three years.
As recently as the first quarter of 2014, emissions were 542.5 million metric tons. This year’s emissions were 127.9 million lower.
And in the first quarter of 2008, emissions were 594.9 million metric tons. This year’s emissions were 180.3 million lower.
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Steve Mitnick, Editor-in-Chief, Public Utilities Fortnightly, and President, Lines Up, Inc.
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