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The U.S. Power Sector Has Reduced Emissions By 52%

The U.S. power sector has reduced emissions by 52 percent from levels projected 15 years ago, and is now “halfway to zero,” a New Berkeley Lab study showed, as the Biden Administration is targeting to decarbonize the electricity grid by 2035.

The new research from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) analyzed historical trends and EIA’s projections for emissions in the power sector to see how much progress has been made.

“Business-as-usual projections saw annual carbon dioxide emissions rising from 2,400 to 3,000 million metric tons (MMT) from 2005 to 2020,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Ryan Wiser, who is the lead author of the study. “But actual 2020 emissions fell to only 1,450 MMT. The U.S. cut power sector emissions by 52% below projected levels – we are now ‘halfway to zero.’”

Technology advancement and low-carbon policies were the key drivers in the reduction of the emissions compared to the forecasts made 15 years ago, according to the study.

The research says that this new look at the emissions trends shows that further large reductions in emissions in the power sector are possible.

“There’s often this concern that energy transitions take a century, or at least decades,” Wiser told Bloomberg. “The fact that we’ve marched halfway there is an impressive story,” he added.

Still, challenges remain, including in infrastructure and building up massive economically viable energy storage to ensure reliable power supply when renewables will have a much higher share of generation, Berkeley Lab’s report says.

A large part of the emissions reductions over the past years were due to the continuous coal-fired capacity retirements, at the expense of natural gas—another fossil fuel which, however, burns cleaner than coal.

Natural gas accounted for the largest share of U.S. utility-scale electricity generation in 2020, at 40.3 percent, with fossil fuels at 60.3 percent share, also due to coal’s 19.3-percent share of the power mix. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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