Energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the U.S. totaled 2,530 million metric tons in the first six months of 2016, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which says this marks the lowest emissions level for the first six months of a year since 1991.
According to EIA’s Short-Term Energy Outlook, mild weather and changes in the fuels used to generate electricity (i.e., more renewable energy consumption) contributed to the decline in energy-related emissions.
In addition, EIA projects that energy-associated CO2 emissions will fall to 5,179 million metric tons in 2016 – the lowest annual level since 1992.
In the first six months of this year, the U.S. had the fewest heating degree days (an indicator of heating demand) since at least 1949, the earliest year for which EIA has monthly data for all 50 states. (The agency notes that warmer weather during winter months reduces demand for heating fuels and electricity.)
Overall, according to the report, total primary energy consumption was 2% lower compared with the first six months of 2015. The decrease was most notable in the residential and electric power sectors, where primary energy consumption decreased 9% and 3%, respectively.
As for renewable energy production, consumption of renewable fuels that do not produce CO2 increased 9% during the first six months of 2016 compared with the same period in 2015.
In particular, wind energy – which saw the largest electricity generating capacity additions of any fuel in 2015 – accounted for nearly half of this increase, according to the report.
Hydroelectric power, which has increased with the easing of drought conditions on the West Coast, accounted for 35% of the increase in consumption of renewable energy. Lastly, solar energy accounted for 13% of the increase and is expected to see the largest capacity additions of any fuel in 2016, the report says.
In addition, coal and natural gas consumption each decreased compared to the first six months of 2015. However, says EIA, the decrease was greater for coal, which generates more carbon emissions when burned than natural gas. Coal consumption fell 18%, while natural gas consumption fell 1%. The agency notes that these declines more than offset a 1% increase in total petroleum consumption, which rose during that period as a result of low gasoline prices.
More on EIA’s report can be found here.