Why Less Coal

I have been assuming that gains in electricity generation by natural gas were the reason for loss in generation by coal. This is not quite true. In 2016 coal generation was down by about 750 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) from its 2006-2008 average, a 38 percent drop. About two-thirds of the drop was due to natural gas and about one-third to renewables.

Source EIA Electric Data Browser, accessed 21 June 2017

Sources of CO2

Cynthia Allen recently stated the people are unwilling to make the kind of sacrifices that are needed to combat climate change (1). Her column shows a limited understanding of greenhouse gas production.

Ms. Allen is wrong when she implies that home heating and cooling are a major source of energy wastage. Actually, homes and businesses together generate a small fraction of greenhouse gasses. The three largest sources are electric power plants, motor vehicles, and industry.   Together they account for over three-quarters of greenhouse gasses (2).

But there is good news on all fronts. Emissions from power plants have been dropping sharply (3). Bloomberg recently predicted that electric cars with efficient motors will become cheaper the gas autos within ten years (4).  And industry has been saving energy (5). All in all carbon dioxide emissions have fallen 14 percent in the last ten years (6).

We are living in an era of great technological change. There are many opportunities for people to save money by saving energy. But we need to realize that the big changes will come from outside the home.

References

(1) ‘Few are willing to support climate control at home’, Columbus Dispatch, June 12, 2017

(2) US EPA ‘Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions’, http://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions, accessed 13 June 2017

(3) Georgina Gustin, ‘U.S. Power Plant Emissions Fall to Near 1990 Levels, Decoupling from GDP Growth’, Inside Climate News, 14 June 2017, insideclimatenews.org/news/14062017/us-power-plant-co2-carbon-emissions-fall-1990-ceres

(4) Jess Shankleman ‘Pretty Soon Electric Cars Will Cost Less Than Gasoline’, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-26/electric-cars-seen-cheaper-than-gasoline-models-within-a-decade, Bloomberg, 26 May 2017

(5) U.S. energy Information Administration, Electric Data Browser http://tinyurl.com/EIABROWSER

(6) ‘Retiring nuclear plants may undercut climate goals’, Columbus Dispatch, June 14, 2017

Cost of Withdrawal from Paris Accords

Ohio’s electricity sources are diverse, as shown in the following table:

Sources of Ohio’s Electricity, 2016

Data from electric Power Monthly, Feb. 2017

Source

Percent
Coal 47
Natural Gas 20
Nuclear 11
Renewables 2
Imports from Other States 19

 

The difference from 2008 is that coal has lost ground to both natural gas and imports.

The distribution in the table appears to be ideal for supporters of withdrawal from the Paris Accords on climate change. However, it would be expensive to sustain. Specifically, additions to all residents’ bills would be about $11 per month minimum due to coal, and perhaps much higher. Also, Ohio residents in the First Energy area would have an added $5 monthly charge to support nuclear plants.

Note: Coal costs are from the LSC Fiscal Analysis of 132-SB155. Nuclear costs are from testimony on 132-HB178. Data in the Table is from Electric Power Monthly.