Renewable electricity and CO2 emissions in the United States

In our previous article, we have covered the electricity prices within the US. The research discovered that the 5 states with the lowest electricity prices are: Washington, Nevada, and Oklahoma, followed by Arkansas and Texas with equal rates. The source of energy creation is also essential to understand, especially how much of that energy comes from renewable sources. That’s why this article will provide an in-depth look at the electricity sources and CO2 emissions.

The percentage of electricity production from renewable sources has the following ranking:

As we can see above, Vermont has almost 100% of its electricity produced by renewable sources. Idaho follows second with 81,50%, and third is Washington with almost 78% of the electricity produced by renewable sources. Also, we can see that Washington alone has Total Net Generation that is more than double the other 5 states combined. Total renewable electricity production of almost triple the other 5 states combined. https://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/archive/february2019.pdf

So it is important to investigate what other states have a large electricity production from renewable sources. This table lists the states that have the most significant electricity production from renewable sources, without taking into consideration the total net generation.

From this perspective, Washington state is in first place for TOTAL RENEWABLE Electricity production with 90734 thousand megawatt-hours. It is followed by California and Texas.

We have to note that the percentage of renewable electricity that a certain facility uses can differ from the overall state’s average. In the case of Elite Mining Inc, it is higher than the state average. At EMI around 94% of electricity is produced by renewable sources, mostly hydroelectric. That is almost 17% higher than Washington’s average. It has been made possible due to long term contracts with the local PUD (Public Utility District).

Renewable sources and CO2e emissions

In the United States, about 29% of global warming emissions come from the electricity sector. Most of those emissions are fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. In contrast, most renewable energy sources produce little to no global warming emissions. Even when including the “life cycle” of clean energy (manufacturing, installation, operation, decommissioning), the global warming emissions associated with renewable energy are minimal. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/renewable-energy/public-benefits-of-renewable-power#references

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most prevalent greenhouse gas, but other air pollutants, such as methane, are also attributed to global warming. Different energy sources produce different amounts of pollutants. To make comparison easier, carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e is used. It is the amount of carbon dioxide required to create an equivalent amount of warming.

The comparison becomes apparent when you look at the numbers: 

  • Burning natural gas for electricity releases between 0.6 and 2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (CO2E/kWh); 
  • Coal emits between 1.4 and 3.6 pounds of CO2E/kWh; 
  • Wind, on the other hand, is responsible for only 0.02 to 0.04 pounds of CO2E/kWh on a life-cycle basis; 
  • Solar 0.07 to 0.2 pounds of CO2E/kWh; 
  • Geothermal 0.1 to 0.2 pounds of CO2E/kWh; 
  • Hydroelectric between 0.1 and 0.5 pounds of CO2E/kWh

Renewable electricity generation from biomass can have a wide range of global warming emissions depending on the resource and whether or not it is sustainably sourced and harvested.

Conclusion

Renewable energy is providing affordable electricity across the United States right now and can help stabilize energy prices in the future. Although renewable facilities require upfront investments to build, they can operate at a lower cost (for most clean energy technologies, the “fuel” is free). As a result, renewable energy prices can be stable over time.

Moreover, the costs of renewable energy technologies have declined steadily and are projected to drop even more. For example, the average price to install solar dropped more than 70% between 2010 and 2017. The cost of generating electricity from wind fell by 66% between 2009 and 2016. Costs will likely decline even further as markets mature and companies increasingly take advantage of economies of scale. We at Elite Mining are planning to implement our own solar panels. The long-term goal is to get near 100% renewable electricity and make our electricity costs negligible.

Written and researched by Erald Cipi from the EMI R&D department.