New Report Lauds US Power Sector for Significant Drop In Greenhouse Gas Emissions

January 8, 2019

The US power sector was outstanding last year in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions, with a year-over-year emissions decrease of about 10%, the largest in decades, according to a new report.

In the overall economy, greenhouse gas emissions were down by more than 2% during 2019, largely because of the closing of coal-fired power plants, based on preliminary data, following a 2018 increase.

New York City global trends research and policy company Rhodium Group‘s report said overall emissions in the power-providing sector dropped significantly last year, with coal-fired power generation down by 18% in 2019.

The drop in coal generation reduced emissions by 190 million metric tons in 2019. The growth in gas generation shaved a little more than 40 million metric tons off this number. But electric power sector emissions were still down by nearly 10%—the biggest year-on-year drop in decades, and a significant change from a 1.2% increase in 2018.

Figure 1

Coal-fired power generation fell by a record 18% year-on-year to its lowest level since 1975.

The Rhodium report says the progress in reducing greenhouse gases in transportation, industry, buildings and other parts of the economy were disappointing, with emissions from buildings and industry actually on the rise.

Emissions from transportation down at a very slight 0.30%.

In Climate Change-fighting terms, net US greenhouse gas emissions ended 2019 slightly higher than at the end of 2016, though emissions were down when compared to the end of 2018.

Figure 2

And at roughly 12% below 2005 levels, the US is at risk of missing its Copenhagen Accord target of a 17% reduction by the end of 2020, and is still a long way off from the 26-28% reduction by 2025 pledged under the Paris Agreement.

“The good news is we’re making really impressive progress in reducing emissions from electricity,” Trevor Houser, the head of energy and climate at Rhodium said in an interview with Reuters.

“The bad news is that electricity is only 25% of total U.S. emissions, and we’re making almost no progress anywhere else in the economy.”

See a headline executive summary of the Rhodium report by clicking here.