States and Utilities Emissions Report Now Available

According to a major new report on U.S. power plant emissions from the top 100 power producers, it shows that the electric industry cut emissions of NOx, SO2 and CO2 in 2011 even as overall electricity generation increased, largely due to increased use of natural gas and growing reliance on renewable energy.

Based on the latest available data, this latest emissions report reveals that Wyoming, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, and North Dakota had the highest CO2 emissions per megawatt-hour of power produced. Idaho, Vermont, Washington, Oregon, and Maine had the lowest CO2 emissions rates.  Five power producers—American Electric Power, Duke Energy, FirstEnergy, Southern Company, and Tennessee Valley Authority—generate 25 percent of overall electric sector CO2 emissions, though some of these producers and others have significantly reduced emissions in recent years.

Some of the key findings of the report include: power plant NOx and SO2 emissions were 70 percent and 72 percent lower, respectively in 2011, than they were in 1990 when Congress passed major amendments to the Clean Air Act; since 1990, power plant CO2 emissions have increased by 20 percent, although CO2 emissions declined 7 percent from 2008 through 2011; coal accounted for 44 percent of the power produced by the 100 largest companies in 2011, followed by natural gas (23 percent), nuclear (22 percent), hydroelectric power (8 percent), non-hydroelectric renewables and other fuel sources (3 and 1 percent, respectively), and oil (less than 0.2 percent).

“The electric power industry is moving to cleaner sources of energy, demonstrating that cleaner power generation is achievable.  Stronger regulations will reinforce those trends and stimulate further investment in low-carbon, low-risk resources like renewable power and energy efficiency,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, which sponsored the report.

Each edition of the report analyzes the latest emissions from the 100 largest power producers in the U.S.  In 2011, the year covered in this edition of the report, the top 100 power producers together accounted for 86 percent of the electricity produced.  The 100 largest power producers emitted approximately 4.1 million tons of SO2, 1.7 million tons of NOx, 25 tons of mercury, and 2.1 billion tons of CO2 in aggregate during 2011.