More Renewable Power Leads To An Increase In Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Posted on Thu 06/30/2011 by


Wind Tower. Note the 4 Wheel Drive vehicle at the base of the tower.

That might seem to be a bold statement, but that is truth of the matter, and these statistics bear that out.

This isn’t a small percentage increase in those CO2 emissions, but an increase well above the overall percentage increase in total power consumption across the whole of the U.S.

While overall total power consumption for the year increased by 4.3%, CO2 emissions increased by 6.7%. When expressed as a percentage, that figure ‘seems’ relatively small, but when expressed as a number it is in fact quite large.

The increase in those CO2 emissions was 201 Million tons, and that’s not the overall total emissions, but just the INCREASE, because the overall total emissions from the electrical power generating sector are 3.27 Billion tons of CO2.

You may wonder how I can say this with such precision. It is in fact something that can be very easily calculated.

The table at this link from the U.S. Government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows exactly how much coal was burned during the year in all of those coal fired power plants across the U.S.

That figure totals out at 979,555,000 tons, yes, almost one billion tons of coal burned just to produce the electricity we all consume in every aspect of our daily lives. That figure is shown in the left column for the Total for the year 2010, and that figure there is expressed in Thousands of tons.

While individual coal types emit differing levels of CO2, the average multiplier for CO2 emissions for every one ton of coal burnt is 2.86 tons of CO2 per one ton of coal. That is explained at this link, and at that Post are further links to how that is explained, again from the Government’s own EIA site.

That being the case, then using that average multiplier of 2.86, then total emissions from the coal fired sector come in at 2.8 Billion tons.

That’s just from the coal fired sector. The Natural Gas fired sector also emits CO2, and that can also be easily calculated. Each mcf (thousand cubic feet) of Natural Gas burned produces 122 Pounds of CO2.

The table at this link shows how much natural gas was burned to produce electrical power, and that figure comes in at 7.633 Billion mcf, so using the multiplier for this, the total emissions from this Natural Gas fired power plant sector come in at 470 Million tons.

When you add that total to the emissions from the coal fired sector, the total for CO2 emissions for the year 2010 come in at 3.27 Billion tons.

The numbers are just so huge, that it becomes difficult to comprehend them, and because of that, some people may even tend to discount them as being false, but they are absolutely true.

You can see from both of those tables that consumption both for coal and Natural Gas rose considerably for the year.

There was also an increase in the power produced from Renewable power plants, and while you can express that figure as a percentage, and that percentage may ‘seem’ large, the actual figures for power are in fact not all that much, and need to be taken in context with the increase in other sectors as well.

As I have explained previously, and often, what needs to be looked at here is not the total increase in the Nameplate Capacity, (or the numbers of those wind towers and plants) which gives a false impression of increasing by a large amount. You need to be cognizant of only one thing, the actual power delivered to the grids for consumption by all users of electrical power.

That increase of power delivered from the two main areas of renewable power that are increasing in numbers, (Wind Power, and both forms of Solar Power) show that the increase in percentage figures was 28%, and expressed like that, it does actually ‘seem’ to be quite a large increase.

However, the actual increase was 21.1 Billion KiloWattHours (KWH) and for those reading this who have only a small understanding of electrical power, that number looks to be quite large.

So, to add some context, let’s then look at other areas of power generation to see how much they increased in actual power supplied.

For Nuclear Power, that sector increased the power it delivered to consumers by 8.1 Billion KWH, and no new Nuclear power plants have been constructed for nearly 30 years now, and yet they increased the power they delivered to consumers.

In the Natural Gas sector, the increase in power delivered was 61 Billion KWH, three times the total for the renewable sector.

In the coal fired sector, the increase in power delivered to consumers was 95 Billion KWH, nearly five times the increase in renewable power delivered, and that needs to be taken in the context that not only are no new large scale coal fired plants being constructed, but smaller and medium scale plants are being closed down.

What is even more of a startling figure is the increase in total power supplied to all U.S. consumers from those two renewables of choice, wind and solar, and that fraction is so tiny as to be almost inconsequential.

The amount of power those two renewables supplied to all consumers rose in the whole year from 1.89% to 2.32%, an increase of only 0.43%, less than half of one percent.

This is not manipulation of data in any way, and trying to make statistics ‘fit’ an argument I might be trying to make. These are the facts from the Government’s own source.

When this data is explained to you, it becomes patently obvious that renewable power is not only NOT taking over, and resulting in lower emissions of CO2, but in fact, the exact opposite is happening.

CO2 emissions are increasing, and not by a small amount that may be an aberration, but by large amounts.

This has been a twelve month exercise, detailing and analysing the data as it is released by the EIA. The purpose of that was so that one month’s data might not be taken out of context to show a certain point, so when the whole 12 month period is finished you can see the overall picture.

The links to the Summary for each month are as follows.