Coal, Emissions

Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index Shows 24 Percent Decline From 2005

Issue 5 and Volume 121.

The first edition of the newly-inagurated Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index indicated emissions from U.S. power producers has declined 24 percent since 2005.

The index, sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems, indicated electrical sector emissions reached 1,001 pounds of CO2 per MWh in the fourth quarter of 2016, which is an increase of one percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2015.

The report concluded that, overall, the entire power sector is getting cleaner and more efficient, even with the rise this year.

“A lot of people would be surprised to hear that, since we usually hear bad news about climate change,” said Paul Browning, CEO of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems. “In fact, we’ve made quite a bit of progress in the power sector.”

Coal generation rose 12 percent year-over year to 31.8 percent of total generation, while natural gas generation fell nine percent to 30.6 percent of total generation.

Even with the rise in generation, carbon intensity of coal and natural gas both fell by two percent to 2231 pounds of CO2 per MWh for coal and 930 pounds of CO2 per MWh for natural gas.

Renewable generation rose seven percent to 16 percent of total generation, while nuclear rose four percent to 20.6 percent of the total.

Even with President Trump’s order to revisit the Clean Power Plan, Browning said he expects that trend to continue, as emissions from new generation have been dropping since the second Bush administration thanks to renewables and growing efficiencies of gas turbines.

“We feel that it’s markets and technologies that are driving this trend,” he said. “Government regulations are important to this trend, but it’s less important than markets and technology.”

Browning said he’s an alumnus of Carneghie Mellon and serves on the dean’s advisory board, though the company considered multiple universities for partnership on the carbon index.

“Ultimately we were very impressed by the faculty we brought forward on this project,” he said.