In 2016, Power Plants Used 40% Less Coal Than 2010's Prediction

Takeaway: while there is no guarantee that power plants will continue to be below expectations of coal use in the coming years, these data should give us hope that future progress could be greater than mainstream predictions.

Projected vs. Actual Electricity from Coal (Trillion kWh)

Electricity from coal is 40% lower in 2016 than the DOE thought it would be based on 2010 projections.

Study: It Is Feasible for the U.S. to Achieve Over 80% Carbon-Free Electricity by 2050

Takeaway: reliability concerns about the transition to renewable electricity are valid, but not insurmountable.

Potential U.S. Electricity Generation Mix in 2050 (%)

The U.S. can feasibly generate over 80% of its electricity from zero-carbon sources by 2050.
  • A 2012 analysis shows that the U.S. can achieve over 80% carbon-free electricity generation by 2050, while maintaining grid reliability in every U.S. region and at relatively low cost.

  • This would reduce power plant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than three-quarters from current levels (equivalent to reducing overall emissions by about one-quarter).

  • This would increase the average American's monthly power bill by about $20, but this excludes power bill savings from energy efficiency and healthcare cost savings from reduced pollution.

For Most Americans, Electric Vehicles Pollute Less Than the Most-Efficient Gasoline-Powered Car

Takeaway: while it may be the case that hybrids are better for the climate than electric cars in some places today, electric cars have more potential than hybrids to reduce emissions from oil in the long run.
  • A 2015 report measured that two-thirds of Americans live in regions (including California, Texas, Florida, New York, New England, and the entire Northwest) where driving an electric vehicle (EV) produces fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) than the most efficient gas-powered vehicle.

  • Even in regions where electricity used to charge EVs is the dirtiest, an EV pollutes 21% less than the average new gasoline-powered vehicle.

  • If the U.S. moved to a grid supplied by 80% renewable energy, an EV would emit roughly 90% less GHG pollution than the current average new gasoline-powered vehicle.

Energy Efficiency Can Eliminate 1/3 of Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Global Contribution of Each Technology to a Safe Emissions Level (%)

This figure shows the percentage of emission reductions each technology can contribute if we bend our emissions curve downwards to levels that prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
  • 2016 data show the potential roles of different technologies to bend global emissions down from their current trajectory to levels consistent with a 2-degree level of warming.

  • The data show that energy efficiency is the biggest solution, accounting for roughly one-third of necessary emissions reductions.

  • In the U.S. energy efficiency provides nearly 40% of the solution.