U.S. Utilities Are Cleaning Up Their Act With Emissions Down 8%

Source: By Anthony Robledo, Bloomberg • Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2020

U.S. utilities are producing less greenhouse gases as they continue to shift away from coal.

Carbon dioxide emissions from the 100 biggest U.S. electricity producers fell 8% last year, according to a report Wednesday from the environmental group Ceres. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, two other key pollutants produced by burning coal, declined by 23% and 14%, respectively.

The results reflect the increasing impact of the green transition as power producers shutter coal plants in favor of cheaper and cleaner natural gas and renewables. More than 9 gigawatts of coal capacity is expected to be permanently retired this year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Utilities’ carbon emissions have declined 28% since 2000 even as U.S. gross domestic product climbed, a sign that cutting pollution need not constrain economic development.

“Our analysis shows a substantial drop in carbon emissions in 2019, particularly at a time when the economy was strong,” Dan Bakal, senior director of electric power at Boston-based Ceres, said in a statement.

The declines may be even larger this year as the coronavirus pandemic slows power consumption. Emissions will continue to come down in future years as power companies use more wind and solar, coupled with increasing installation of energy storage systems

“The encouraging thing is that renewables continue to be added in significant amounts and they’re being integrated into the grid really effectively,” Bakal said in an interview.