Volume 18, Issue 10 November 22, 2021
In this Issue
How Companies Can Combat Climate Change
Editor's Note
Thankful for Natural Gas in PJM?
Weather
Washington, D.C. Area Cooling/Heating Degree Days
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Editor's Note
Thankful for Natural Gas in PJM?
Week in review for November 14-20, 2021

Thursday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported that working gas in storage as of Friday November 12, 2021, was 3,644 Bcf. This was an increase of 26 Bcf from the previous week, a bit higher injection than was expected. Inventories are now 310 Bcf lower than this time last year, and 81 Bcf below the 5-year average.   

For the week ending 11/18/2021, the 12-month NYMEX natural gas strip (Dec 21-Nov 22) was down 2.6% and the PJM Western Hub ATC (7X24) 12-month strip down 1.6%. As noted last week, prices have been very volatile, even as weather forecasts have been relatively stable and calling for near-normal weather. Any significant turn warmer or, especially, colder will likely cause significant price movements.

Considering Thanksgiving, COP26, and the House passage of the Build Back Better Bill including half a trillion to fight climate change, we thought it would be interesting to look at the impact increasing natural gas generation is having on CO2 emissions, specifically in the PJM region. 

While perhaps not good “enough” to outweigh the increasingly troubling outlook for keeping the global temperature rise to 1.50C, the news regarding CO2 emissions from the PJM Region has been very positive. As shown in the chart below, the emissions rate (pounds of CO2 per MWh generated) has decreased 39% from 2005 to 2020 (1,292 down to 791 lbs./MWh). Factoring in roughly 800 million MWh generated in PJM in 2020, this means PJM CO2 emissions were reduced roughly 182 million metric tons versus what they would have been at 2005 emission rates. That reduction is equivalent to taking almost 40 million cars off the road for the year. Put another way this reduction represents roughly 3% of total United States CO2 emissions from all sectors.

So how did we get there? Renewables have been part of the story to-date and are the most likely sources for emissions reductions in the future, however they account for only 5.2% of the total PJM generation in 2020 – so the increase above the 1.4% level in 2005 is welcome but overshadowed by other factors. The big story is that the coal generation fraction has decreased from 57% in 2005 to 19% in 2020. The bulk of that 38-percentage point decrease was made up from natural gas which increased 35 percentage points from 5% in 2005 to 40% in 2020.  While natural gas is still a fossil fuel with some carbon emissions, its emission rate is roughly 60% lower than that of coal. So, while it does not cut emissions to zero, due to its large share of the displacement of coal, natural gas has had the lion share of the impact on CO2 as shown below.

 

We are likely to give up some of those gains in 2021 as higher natural gas prices have led to a slight rebound in coal generation. Gas was able to displace coal in large part due to lower gas prices in recent years, which in turn are due in large part to the increasing supply of shale gas, which of course is not without negative impacts. However, those looking for lower CO2 emissions can be thankful for natural gas displacing coal in PJM.

 

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