Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica

Biomass

Electricity Source With Lowest Carbon Intensity Is… (Chart)

Originally published on Shrink That Footprint.
By Lindsay Wilson

Carbon Intensity of Electricity

The new French Prime Minister Manuel Valls recently reiterated President Hollande’s plan to cut French dependence on atomic power to half of all output by 2025, down from almost 75% currently. The plan is to curtail nuclear and ramp up renewables. In his speech he noted that:

The climate is probably the area where regulation is most needed… It’s a major challenge for the planet and we will respond with a real low-carbon strategy.

I’m not sure if the context of this quote has gone missing in translation, but I’m guessing that switching from nuclear to renewables is not how France intends to cut its emissions by 40% by 2030. I’m sure it isn’t, because that simply isn’t a mitigation strategy.

In the map above we can see that France already has very low carbon electricity, just 79 g CO2/kWh in terms of carbon dioxide emitted at plants. This figure is so low precisely because they have so much nuclear. In fact their carbon productivity of 0.15 kg CO2/$ makes most countries look like climate laggards (the US is 0.4 for example, and China is 2.1).

Reading this story made me wonder how well people understand the carbon intensity of electricity generation. So here is a quick primer, based on an excellent IPCC meta-study of the issue, looking at full lifecycle emissions of electricity production.

carbon intensity of electricity

It’s basically pretty simple. Fossil fuels are high carbon sources of electricity while other generation sources are low carbon.

Coal is the most carbon intensive, followed by oil and then natural gas. Solar PV and geothermal are slightly more carbon intensive than other non-fossil sources, but still very low carbon compared to any fossil fuel. If you dig into the study, you can see the range of data points across different studies for each technology.

So what is the ‘greenest source of electricity’?

If you are looking just at carbon, then hydro is a decent bet, closely followed by ocean power, wind, and nuclear. If we could actually make it work, biomass with carbon capture and storage (CCS) would be quite something, preferably using the waste from some fast rotation food staple. In the IPCC meta-study, biomass with CCS has estimates from -1,368 to -598 g CO2eq/kWh. Sadly, this option looks like it is a very long way from being commercially scalable.

So which do you think is the greenest source of power? Does your definition of green extend beyond just carbon?

 

Advertisement
 
Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Shrink That Footprint is a resource for squeezing more life out of less carbon. We are an independent research group that provides information to people interested in reducing their climate impact. Our core focus is understanding, calculating, and reducing personal carbon footprints.

Comments

You May Also Like

Climate Change

Those wells need to be decommissioned so that they never again spout emissions. But promising climate action and delivering it are two entirely different...

Biofuels

While fun and well-attended, how much did the recent Miami race contribute to professed F1 goals to become sustainable? Not much, it turns out.

Cars

Plugins continue to rise in France, with last month’s plugin vehicle registrations ending at 22,926 units, divided between 12,692 BEVs (or 12% share of...

Clean Power

The duplicity is everywhere. Although red state legislators stall key climate legislation, they benefit in their home states by promoting renewable energy enterprises. Their...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.