Northwest Power Generation Continues to Green


According to new data from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, the shutdowns of coal-fired power plants in the Northwest and increased natural gas production have resulted in lower emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

In total, carbon dioxide emissions from power generation fell about 20% in 2020 compared to 2019, said Gillian Charles, senior policy analyst at the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

The data takes into account heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions released when facilities generate electricity, including coal, natural gas, hydro, wind and solar generation. The data counts greenhouse gas emissions from 2020, which is the most recent year available.

“That’s the lowest carbon dioxide emissions in 25 years,” Charles said.

Emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, such as those generated by coal-fired power plants, are warming the planet, scientists have said. A new NASA report has found 2021 to be the sixth hottest year on record, tied with 2018. The past eight years combined for the hottest since records began in 1880, the report said.

In the Northwest, states have set renewable energy goals to eventually use carbon-neutral energy sources. Thus, removing coal-fired power plants and reducing natural gas production.

Currently, at least 50% of the region’s electricity supply comes from hydroelectricity, Charles said, which means the Northwest emits far less carbon dioxide than the rest of the United States. United.

According to the council’s most recent data, renewable energy such as wind power has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Northwest. In addition to reducing emissions, renewable energy advocates said a growing list of renewable energy projects in the Northwest could help reduce energy bills in the region.

The biggest declines in emissions in the Northwest will occur over the next few years as coal-fired plants retire, Charles said.

However, the region will not be able to simply subtract emissions from coal plants when the plants are offline, Charles said. It all depends on the type of energy that will replace coal-fired power plants, she said.

“Are we more dependent on our natural gas, which will then contribute to our emissions? Maybe not as potent, but natural gas still contributes to emissions,” Charles said.

Now, natural gas helps fill the gaps when slow water flows lead to lower hydropower generation, she said.

Preliminary 2021 data shows a slight drop in heat-trapping emissions, Charles said. Several coal plant retirements took place towards the end of 2020.

“We haven’t really seen the full effects of these withdrawals on emissions and power supply,” Charles said.

Additionally, the Northwest expects significant renewable energy development over the next 20 years, Charles said, spurred in part by clean energy policies in Washington and Oregon that will help reduce emissions. heat trapping.

A surge in renewable energy development is starting right now, said Fred Heutte, senior policy associate with renewable energy advocacy group NW Energy Coalition. More renewable energy projects than natural gas development appear to be underway, he said.

“We don’t see much interest in new gas-fired plants, at least for the rest of this decade,” Heutte said.

In addition to what Heutte called a huge wave of renewable energy projects, he said he’s seeing an increase in battery storage and smart technology that helps customers use energy when it’s not needed. is not in high demand.

An increase in renewable energy development could help reduce energy bills, Heutte said. Once the renewable energy facilities are built, you don’t have to pay the other fuel prices, he said, noting that natural gas prices have risen in recent months.

“If you know what your energy costs will be — because you don’t have the cost of fuel in the future — that really helps stabilize the bills you pay your utility,” Heutte said. [Copyright 2022 Northwest News Network]

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