Increased Use of Clean-Burning Natural Gas Drives Air Quality Improvements

U.S. air quality continues to dramatically improve, as more domestic, clean-burning natural gas is produced and used in power generation. Carbon emissions tied to U.S. electric power generation have declined 28% since 2005 and are now at their lowest reported levels since 1987, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

More from the EIA’s latest report:

The power sector has become less carbon intensive as natural gas-fired generation … and noncarbon sources of electricity generation—especially renewables such as wind and solar—have grown. … The substitution of natural gas for other fossil fuels has largely been market driven, as ample supplies of lower-priced natural gas and the relative ease of adding natural gas-fired capacity have allowed it to pick up share in electric power generation in many markets. In 2016, natural gas generation surpassed coal as the largest source of electricity generation.

What’s more, EIA’s latest report comes on the heels of an EPA analysis that concluded power plant emissions in 2017 were down 4.5% from 2016 and 19.7% compared with 2011.

Across the region, clean, locally produced natural gas is meeting an increasingly larger share of the region’s electricity demand. The EIA reported earlier this month that the PJM Interconnection – the largest competitive wholesale market in the U.S. that serves all of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia – increased its natural gas capacity by about 18% between 2013 and 2017.

More from EIA on the growth of natural gas in power generation:

The increase in PJM’s capacity factors for natural gas-fired generators is the largest of any regional transmission organization in the country in the past five years (2013–2017).  Capacity factors are an indicator of how often a generator is run, and the combination of additions of natural gas-fired capacity in the region and higher capacity factors have meant that utilities in the PJM Interconnection have been generating more electricity using natural gas.

Just in Pennsylvania, 19 natural gas power plants, representing $12.6 billion in capital investment will come online by 2021. The capacity expansion is good news for our environment and economies, as clean natural gas use in power generation drives down emissions and supports good-paying jobs.

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