US power sector carbon emissions intensity drops to lowest on record

Greater insight into the impact of regional trends on fuel types, usage, and emissions


Fossil fueled power stations are major emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas which is a contributor to global warming.

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) announced the release of the 2018 Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index.

The Index tracks the environmental performance of U.S. power producers and compares current emissions to more than two decades of historical data collected nationwide.

The latest data revealed the following findings:

U.S. power plant emissions averaged 967 lb. CO2 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in 2017, which was down 3.1 percent from the prior year and down 26.8 percent from the annual value of 1,321 lb CO2 per MWh in 2005. The result for 2016 was initially reported as 1,001 lb/MWh, but was later revised downward to 998 lb/MWh.

“The Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index provides a snapshot of critical data regarding energy production and environmental performance,” said Costa Samaras, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering CMU.

“We’ve found this index to provide significant insight into trends in power generation and emissions. In particular, the data have shown that emissions intensity has fallen to the lowest level on record, as a combination of natural gas and renewable power have displaced more carbon-intensive coal-fired power generation.”

“The power industry has made significant progress in reducing emissions for over a decade, as new technology, state and federal policies and market forces have increased power generation from natural gas and renewables, and decreased power generation from coal. As this Change in Power continues, the Carnegie Mellon Power Sector Carbon Index will not only report the results but also provide analysis of the underlying reasons for the changes we’re seeing,” said Paul Browning, President, and CEO of MHPS Americas. “Our team at MHPS is proud to support this important work by Carnegie Mellon researchers.”

More on this story:

Emissions Index

Power Sector Carbon Index

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