Electricity and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

All Text from: Environmental Protection Agency (2016). Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2014.

The process of generating electricity is the single largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States, representing 37 percent of total CO2 emissions from all CO2 emissions sources across the United States. Methane and N2O accounted for a small portion of emissions from electricity generation, representing less than 0.1 percent and 1.0 percent, respectively. Electricity generation also accounted for the largest share of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, approximately 39.2 percent in 2014. Methane and N2O from electricity generation represented 4.4 and 49.3 percent of total methane and N2O emissions from fossil fuel combustion in 2014, respectively. Electricity was consumed primarily in the residential, commercial, and industrial end-use sectors for lighting, heating, electric motors, appliances, electronics, and air conditioning (see Figure 3-9). Electricity generators, including those using low-CO2 emitting technologies, relied on coal for approximately 39 percent of their total energy requirements in 2014. Recently an increase in the carbon intensity of fuels consumed to generate electricity has occurred due to an increase in coal consumption, and decreased natural gas consumption and other generation sources. Total U.S. electricity generators used natural gas for approximately 27 percent of their total energy requirements in 2014 (EIA 2015a). The electric power industry includes all power producers, consisting of both regulated utilities and non-utilities (e.g. independent power producers, qualifying co-generators, and other small power producers). For the underlying energy data used in this chapter, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) places electric power generation into three functional categories: the electric power sector, the commercial sector, and the industrial sector. The electric power sector consists of electric utilities and independent power producers whose primary business is the production of electricity, while the other sectors consist of those producers that indicate their primary business is something other than the production of electricity. The industrial, residential, and commercial end-use sectors were reliant on electricity for meeting energy needs. The residential and commercial end-use sectors were especially reliant on electricity consumption for lighting, heating, air conditioning, and operating appliances. Electricity sales to the residential and commercial end-use sectors in 2014 increased approximately 0.9 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively. The trend in the residential and commercial sectors can largely be attributed to colder, more energy-intensive winter conditions compared to 2013. Electricity sales to the industrial sector in 2014 increased approximately 1.2 percent. Overall, in 2014, the amount of electricity generated (in kWh) increased approximately 1.1 percent relative to the previous year, while CO2 emissions from the electric power sector increased by 0.1 percent. The increase in CO2 emissions, despite the relatively larger increase in electricity generation was a result of a slight decrease in the consumption of coal and natural gas for electricity generation by 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent, respectively, in 2014, and an increase in the consumption of petroleum for electricity generation by 15.8 percent (pp. 3-14 and 3-15).

electricity generation retail sales

Profile of the largest emitter in the industry, the Robert W Scherer Power Plant in Juliette, Georgia.

power plant