The latest data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows natural gas has been absolutely killing renewables insofar as CO2 emissions savings.
Natural gas and renewables are natural partners when it comes to reducing CO2 emissions but natural gas has been doing all the heavy lifting according to official calculations by the EIA. This is news that should warm the heart of everyone truly concerned about greenhouse gas emissions.
The EIA recently released an analysis of what’s really contributing to greenhouse gas savings and, specifically CO2 emissions from power generation. Here are the basics (emphasis added):
Two basic factors contributed to lower electricity generation carbon intensity (CO2/kilowatthour) since 2005: substitution of coal-fired generation with the less-carbon-intensive and more efficient combined-cycle natural gas-fired generation, and growth in non-carbon electricity generation, especially wind and solar. This analysis includes estimated CO2 emissions from electricity generated in all sectors. Non-carbon electricity generation includes distributed solar.
Between 2005 and 2016, CO2 emissions declined by a cumulative 3,176 MMmt as a result of these two factors. Of this total, 2,007 MMmt can be attributed to the shift in fossil fuels to natural gas, and 1,169 MMmt can be attributed to the increase in non-fossil generation sources.
Although total electricity generation use grew by about 1% from 2005 to 2016, related CO2 emissions fell by 24% over that period.
From 2005 to 2016, fossil-fuel electricity generation declined by about 9%, while non-fossil (non-carbon) electricity generation rose by 25%.
The following table, generated from EIA data, says it all:
For further analysis check out this excellent post at EID. The evidence is overwhelming; natural gas is reducing CO2 emissions connected with electricity generation, killing renewables. If CO2 emissions are the problem, natural gas may not be the only solution, but it’s the most effective one and it’s killing renewables in terms of productivity. Renewables will be more productive, too, when they stop viewing natural gas as the enemy and start hitching themselves to the fast-moving natural gas train.