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EGEB: In 2020, the US produced the lowest energy emissions in nearly 40 years

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • In 2020, due to the pandemic, US energy emissions fell to the lowest level since 1983. 
  • Belfast, Maine, sees 7 megawatts of community solar launch for Central Maine Power customers.
  • UnderstandSolar is a free service that links you to top-rated solar installers in your region for personalized solar estimates. Tesla now offers price matching, so it’s important to shop for the best quotes. Click here to learn more and get your quotes. — *ad.

2020 US energy emissions drop

In 2020, due to the pandemic, US energy emissions from fossil fuels fell to the lowest level since 1983. The 4.6 billion metric tons (Bmt) of carbon dioxide emitted in 2020 was an 11% decrease from 2019, the largest annual decrease on record, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The EIA says, broken down by source:

US petroleum consumption accounted for 2.0 Bmt of energy-related CO2 emissions, or about 45% of the US total, in 2020. About 77% of petroleum CO2 emissions occurred in the transportation sector in 2020.

In 2020, US natural gas consumption accounted for 1.7 Bmt of CO2 emissions, or about 36% of the total — its largest share on record. In 2020, about 38% of CO2 emissions from natural gas occurred in the electric power sector, and 32% were in the industrial sector.

In 2020, coal consumption accounted for 0.9 Bmt of CO2 emissions, or about 19% of total CO2 emissions, both its lowest total amount and share in [the EIA’s] annual data series that begins in 1973. In 2020, about 90% of CO2 emissions from coal occurred in the electric power sector. Coal consumption in the electric power sector has declined over the past decade, displaced by natural gas and renewable energy.

The EIA expects emissions to grow by 0.3 Bmt, or 7%, in 2021, due to the US no longer being in lockdown.

Community solar in Maine

Every little bit counts. Monson, Maine-based PowerMarket, an employee-owned community solar management company, and SunRaise, a New Hampshire-headquartered solar energy developer, owner, and operator, have launched a 7 megawatt community solar farm in Belfast, Maine. The town itself has a population of just under 7,000. It’s 35 miles southwest of Bangor.

Central Maine Power (CMP) customers who take part in the community solar program receive 10% savings on the community solar credits. A further community solar program, Route 32, is now open for enrollment and will be online in the fall.

Patrick Jackson, cofounder of SunRaise Investments, said:

Community solar is a way to provide people from all walks of life – homeowners, renters, business owners, and more – access to renewable energy. Through community solar projects like this one in Belfast, we have been able to accomplish that goal and we are proud to see our work come to life and benefit Mainers.

Maine’s electricity runs on around 80% renewables, but only a tiny percentage of that is solar. According to the US Energy Information Administration:

In 2019, about four-fifths of Maine’s electricity net generation came from renewable sources. About three-tenths of the state’s total net generation came from hydroelectric dams, one-fourth was fueled by biomass, and nearly one-fourth was provided by wind turbines.

Natural gas-fired power plants fueled less than one-sixth of state generation in 2019, its smallest share in at least two decades. A small amount of Maine’s net generation, a total of about 2%, came from solar power, petroleum-fueled, and coal-fired power plants. 

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