Ceres Report: US Carbon Emissions Fell Slightly in 2022 - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Efficiency, GHG Emissions, Utilities  -  November 17, 2023

Ceres Report: US Carbon Emissions Fell Slightly in 2022

The U.S. power sector recorded a marginal reduction of less than 1% in carbon emissions in 2022, according to an analysis of air emissions for the country's top 100 power producers. 

The report from Ceres, "Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the U.S." shows that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2022 were down 34% below their peak levels in 2007, due to a decline in coal generation. 

The report examines and compares the air pollutant emissions based on 2021 power generation, plant ownership, and emissions data from 100 producers who own over 3,800 power plants and account for approximately 80% of the sector’s electric generation and reported air emissions. 

"Despite the increased emissions in the previous year, the power sector continues to make progress and the Inflation Reduction Act enables even greater progress to achieve larger emissions reductions across the sector and meet our 2030 goals," said Dan Bakal, senior program director of climate and energy at Ceres, in a statement. "While it is important to acknowledge these unprecedented incentives, the power sector must actively accelerate clean energy investments to achieve net zero targets. Although many major power producers have made climate commitments and implemented strategies to reduce carbon emissions, the urgency of rapid decarbonization necessitates even greater ambition." 

Ceres also noted the effects of the Inflation Reduction Act, which has encouraged new investments, including clean energy projects and major technological improvements across the electric power sector, making now a good time for utilities to achieve a cleaner and more efficient energy future. 

“The Inflation Reduction Act – arguably the most consequential energy legislation in U.S. history – unleashed billions of dollars in clean energy investments, and now, the electric industry must move rapidly and decisively to translate that support into critical climate impact,” said Katie Ott, vice president, Sustainability and Climate Strategy, Constellation, the nation’s largest producer of carbon-free energy. “At Constellation, we’re working to extend the life of our reliable zero-emissions nuclear plants, increase the capacity of our clean energy fleet and play a leading role in jumpstarting the clean hydrogen economy while offering solutions to help our customers reduce emissions and meet environmental goals.” 

Natural gas was responsible for more generation in 2022 than any preceding year and fossil sources continue to be responsible for nearly 60% of electricity generation. Overall, energy production from zero-carbon power sources remained steady at 40%. 

The report shows that the power sector is not on track to cut carbon emissions enough to achieve national and international climate goals. Data was examined from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding four power plant pollutants: sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), mercury, and CO2. For the electric sector overall, in 2022, power plant SO2 and NOx emissions were 94% and 87% lower, respectively, than in 1990 when Congress passed major amendments to the Clean Air Act.  

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