More Localized Analysis of Energy Sector’s Emissions Could Key Decarbonization Goals

(Credit: Pixabay)

by | Nov 5, 2021

(Credit: Pixabay)

New research hopes to help the energy industry measure and prioritize future decarbonization efforts by taking a closer and more localized look at the carbon intensity of grid electricity.

The research describes the total carbon accounting (TCA) method, which analyzes the physical flows of power across all individual nodes on the grid within a given point in time, as well as the carbon associated with all energy generation sources. The research was conducted by Kevala Inc. and utility providers National Grid and Exelon Corporation.

The companies say current carbon accounting methods use overall averages across wide geographical areas and timeframes, which can overlook the temporal aspect of clean power generation and the impacts of closely connected renewable energy generation at the distribution level.

While the report says that current processes have helped implement voluntary emissions reporting and investments to make improvements, it is not enough to make a big impact in decarbonization goals overall.

The energy sector still produced 73% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 and 63% of the world’s electricity is still produced by fossil fuels. Although those numbers are seeing improvements with increased use of natural gas and renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.

A key part of the Biden Administrations effort to guide the United States to be net zero by 2050 is utilizing clean energy. Producing carbon free power by 2035 is part of the government’s plan to achieve those goals.

But without taking additional steps and diving deeper into where carbon emissions come from in the energy industry, it will be difficult to make more significant improvements, according to the report.

The TCA aims to capture insight regarding the carbon associated with all the ways the power flows at any individual node on the grid for a given point in time.

Because the power grid is complex and there are many different elements of production and use, such as solar or wind generation, different sizes of grids and wide ranges of use from large data centers down to individual homes, it is tough to tackle what the carbon impact is without further breaking it down.

The report finds that focusing on separate data analysis of all components of the energy process, especially on a more advanced temporal and geographical level, and by doing so energy providers can get a more accurate view on where carbon intensity is at its most impactful.

The companies involved in the report say by using TCA energy investors can accurately match carbon-free power supplies with capacity forecasts.

“By utilizing extraordinarily granular datasets and new tools to trace power generation throughout the grid, industry reporting around emission reduction efforts will improve exponentially,” says Duncan Burt, chief sustainability officer of National Grid. “This data will create new insights that will help our communities understand the energy they use and ensure we can properly measure how we are achieving the goal of a lower carbon grid.”

The TCA is currently being tested by major utilities in North America and Europe.

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