PJM’s Carbon Bigfoot

If you read PJM Interconnection’s latest Annual Report, there’s a lot about all the wind generation that is “planned” (“imagined”) for PJM and very little about coal or carbon emissions. Indeed, PJM had the temerity to title their report: Re-New (as in renewable energy). Could it be that PJM — the regional transmission organization that supplies 51 million electricity customers including Marylanders — is one big wind farm, pumping out carbon-free electricity for its 51 million customers?  Hardly.

When one looks at the reality of PJM generation, the truth is a lot, well, uglier.

According to the 2008 State of the Market Report for PJM (available from Monitoring Analytics), 40 percent of PJM installed capacity was coal-fired in 2008.  Wind accounted for less than one percent.

But wait, it gets worse.  While it is forty percent of INSTALLED CAPACITY, coal was the fuel source for 55 percent of electricity GENERATED in PJM.  In other words, under PJM’s management of electricity markets, coal-fired generation is heavily favored over cleaner sources like natural gas.  While it was 29 percent of CAPACITY in 2008, natural gas accounted for only 7 percent of electricity GENERATED.

Coal was the fuel source for 404,719 GWh of PJM generation in 2008.  A very rough estimate (based on EIA data) shows that one GWh of coal-fired electricity translates to about 1,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions.  PJM’s coal-fired generators put out approximately 405 million metric tons of CO2 in 2008.  (This is based on average figures for the USA — it would be great if PJM or Monitoring Analytics would produce a detailed analysis of PJM’s actual carbon footprint.  More than 250 major corporations, including major utilities, have joined EPA’s Climate Leaders program, reporting their carbon  emissions and pledging reduction goals.)

PJM has ordered the construction of massive new transmission lines to carry more of its dirty, coal-fired electricity to the East Coast, including exports to New York and New England.  Applications for two coal-by-wire projects (part of PJM’s “Project Mountaineer”) are before the Maryland Public Service Commission: Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP) and Potomac Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH).  

Approval of these unneeded coal-by-wire projects would undermine years of effort by Maryland’s Governor and Legislature to protect our state from the ravages of global warming.  Besides being the leading source of greenhouse gases, burning coal also produces toxic mercury, particulates and a host of other harmful stuff.

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3 responses to “PJM’s Carbon Bigfoot

  1. Pingback: PJM Interconnection — America’s Top Carbon Polluter? « Maryland Energy Report

  2. Pingback: Peak Demand Falls — PJM Cancels Capacity Auction « Maryland Energy Report

  3. Pingback: Maryland Needs Electric Cars to Use Offshore Wind « Maryland Energy Report

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