Abstract:CO2 emissions from the US power sector decreased by 8.76% in 2009 relative to 2008 contributing to a decrease over this period of 6.59% in overall US emissions of greenhouse gases. An econometric model, tuned to data reported for regional generation of US electricity, is used to diagnose factors responsible for the 2009 decrease. More than half of the reduction is attributed to a shift from generation of power using coal to gas driven by a recent decrease in gas prices in response to the increase in production from shale. An important result of the model is that, when the cost differential for generation using gas rather than coal falls below 2–3 cents/kWh, less efficient coal fired plants are displaced by more efficient natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) generation alternatives. Costs for generation using NGCC decreased by close to 4 cents/kWh in 2009 relative to 2008 ensuring that generation of electricity using gas was competitive with coal in 2009 in contrast to the situation in 2008 when gas prices were much higher. A modest price on carbon could contribute to additional switching from coal to gas with further savings in CO2 emissions.
Final Manuscript in DASH
This paper is from a series investigating and comparing the prospects for low- and non-carbon power generation in China and the U.S.; click here (http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2012/02/model-situation/) to see coverage in the Harvard Gazette.