New England slashed power emissions 60% over 10 years

Thanks in large part to increased natural gas generation, ISO New England has seen dramatic reductions in sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions since 2001, the ISO said Nov. 26.

New England’s total emissions of SO2 and NOx have decreased from 2001 levels, by 60% and 52%, respectively, the ISO said in a news release.

Between the year 2000 and 2011, natural gas-fueled generation has increased from 15% to 52% in New England, according to a table provided by the grid operator. ISO New England President and CEO Gordon van Welie and others are seeking to increase cooperation between the gas and power sectors.

 During that same 10-year period, coal use has dropped from 18% to 6% and oil-fired generation has all but disappeared – going from 22% in 2000 to less than 1% in 2011. Nuclear power has declined somewhat from 31% to 28%. Hydroelectric and other renewables have held steady at 13%.

Compared with 2001, the 2010 average emission rate for SO2 has declined by 64%; the rate for NOx by 54%; and the rate for carbon dioxide (CO2) by 11%. This achievement is made all the more impressive by the fact that the total system generation in New England increased by 11% for the same time period, the ISO said.

Natural gas-fired power plants are increasingly prevalent and account for the majority of new generators built over the last 10 years. In addition, new transmission system upgrades have reduced the dependence on some older, less efficient oil and coal units, which had been needed to address reliability concerns in certain parts of the grid, ISO-NE said.

Going forward, the region’s development of zero-emission resources, such as wind and solar, are likely to contribute to emissions reduction. Wind resources have seen an increase from 20 MW in 2008 to more than 300 MW today. An additional 2,900 MW of wind projects are proposed to connect to the grid in the next five years.

Technical advances in energy efficiency should also help curb emissions, the grid operator said.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at