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Latest on Grid's De-Carbonizing

A hundred percent will be carbon free by 2050. Or by 2040. Or even by the year 2030, which is but eleven years from now. We hear this in the news all the time, about goals being set for de-carbonizing the country’s production of electricity.

Which begs the question, where do we stand at the present time? On Monday, the U.S. Energy Department answered this important question, through the first half of 2019.

Sixty percent of the grid’s electricity production emitted carbon dioxide during the first half. And so forty percent was carbon free. Real good. Though real short of a hundred percent.  

You might ask whether including non-grid electricity production changes that sixty-forty mix. Non-grid production – primarily small-scale solar – doesn’t, since it’s still miniscule compared to grid production, which generates a hundred and twelve times as much electricity.

While sixty percent emits carbon dioxide, sixty percent of that emits a fairly low amount per output. It’s the remaining slice – from coal power plants – that is largely responsible for the electricity sector’s carbon dioxide emissions.

And that remaining slice is falling off a cliff. In 2014, coal plants produced 38.6 percent of grid electricity. In 2015, this fell to 33.2 percent. In 2016, this fell to 30.4 percent. In 2017, this fell to 29.9 percent. In 2018, this fell to 27.4 percent.

This year, 2019, based on the first half numbers, the coal plant percentage will likely come in around 25 percent, a record low.