EIA expects slight CO2 uptick in 2013 due largely to coal rebound

Once all data are in, energy-related CO2 emissions in 2013 are expected to be roughly 2% above the 2012 level, mostly because of a small increase in coal consumption in the electric power sector.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported in the Jan. 13 edition of its Today in Energy Feature that coal has regained some market share from natural gas since a low in April 2013. However, the impact of that coal rebound on overall emissions trends remains fairly small.

Emissions in 2013, despite the uptick, are still slightly more than 10% below 2005 levels, a significant contribution towards the goal of a 17% reduction in emissions from the 2005 level by 2020 that was adopted by the Obama Administration. This level of reduction is expected to continue through 2015, according to EIA’s most recent Short-Term Energy Outlook.

CO2 emissions from energy activities declined four out of six years since their 2007 peak, and were historically low (12% below the 2005 level) in 2012. From 2005 to 2013, EIA said that the key energy-economic drivers of a changing U.S. energy landscape included:

  • Weak economic growth in recent years, dampening growth in energy demand compared to pre-recession expectations;
  • Continuously improving energy efficiency across the economy, including buildings and transportation;
  • High energy prices over the past four years, with the exception of natural gas, since about 2010;
  • An abundant and inexpensive supply of natural gas, resulting from the widespread use of new production technologies for shale gas; and
  • Power sector decarbonization since 2010, as natural gas and renewables displaced coal.

EIA estimated in its Jan. 7 Short-Term Energy Outlook that total U.S. electricity generation averaged 11.1 terawatthours per day in 2013, and the agency projects growth of 0.3% and 1.0% in 2014 and 2015, respectively. Natural-gas-fired generation is expected by EIA to account for a 26.8% share of total generation during 2014, down from 27.5% in 2013 as a result of rising natural gas prices. The share of coal generation increases from 39.1% in 2013 to 40.2% in 2014. As the retirements of coal plants pick up in 2015 in response to the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, though, EIA expects the share of coal to fall to 38.6% of total generation while the natural gas share rises back to 27.6%.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.